NFLPA Creates Whistleblower Hotline to Report COVID-19 Protocol Violations

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 5, 2020

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) talks on the phone on the sideline during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

As the NFL continues to test players daily during the first two weeks of training camp, the NFLPA is creating an additional safeguard to assist its members: a whistleblower hotline.  

Per Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt, the hotline will allow players to anonymously report violations of the health and safety protocol the NFL and NFLPA established in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Our player affairs staff is taking the health and safety of players seriously," George Atallah, the NFLPA's assistant executive director of external affairs said. "We set this up to ensure players felt comfortable at their workplace, but also to ensure they know we would act if they didn't feel safe."

The move is similar to the NBA's tip line, which has resulted in multiple players receiving warnings inside the league's bubble in Orlando, Florida. 

The hotline, however, will serve multiple functions. 

Aside from offering anonymity for whistleblowers, players can also call in to ask questions about COVID-19 policies around the league, discuss concerns with health and safety procedures and relay information about the implementation of previously approved infectious disease emergency response plans from each club.

Here's how the system will function, per Prewitt:

"Once a complaint comes into the hotline, which is being monitored by NFLPA staffers after launching Wednesday afternoon, the union can then dispatch investigators to inspect the facility in question. Under extreme circumstances, as part of its return-to-play agreement with the league, the NFLPA even has the authority to shut the facility down until the issue is corrected, according to Atallah. (The NFLPA is also free to make random, unannounced spot checks throughout the season to ensure compliance.)"

The NFL will be included in investigations by the NFLPA, and teams are "strictly prohibited" from retaliating against anyone who reports a violation. Among possible punishments for violations, not wearing a mask or observing social distancing can result in a fine of up to $14,650. 

It is unclear what action the league or union can take should a team be found retaliating against a player who lodges a complaint. 

All coaches, players, medical staff and athletic trainers are subject to the league's rules and can be fined for breaking protocol.