Deion Sanders, never a stranger to the spotlight in his 14-year Hall of Fame career, thrust himself into the conversation about NFL players opting out of this season — and offered a take not many football analysts have said publicly.

In a tweet Friday, the former defensive back and current NFL Network commentator took a shot at players in “all sports” who choose to sit out for health and safety concerns amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“All players OPTING out in all sports PLEASE BELIEVE the game will go on without u,” Sanders tweeted. “This is a business & don’t u EVER forget that. There’s NO ONE that’s bigger than the game itself. Only the ref, umps & officials are that important that u can’t play without them. NOT YOU!”

Sanders’s message came after the NFL announced 67 players chose to sit out this fall. Some college football players are coming to the same decision, and for the most part those choices to protect their best interests have been respected. Sanders, an employee of the NFL Network, drew blowback for his stance.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns, who opted out before the NFL’s Thursday deadline, replied to Sanders in support of his own decision.

“I want the season to go on & for it to be safe for all my brothers,” Hurns tweeted. “I did what’s best for me & my situation, this ain’t got anything to do with nobody else. I’m at peace knowing I did what’s best for my family.”

Former NFL players Geoff Schwartz and Benjamin Watson echoed those sentiments, emphasizing that all athletes, especially NFL players, know their absence won’t stop the sport from going on.

Sanders followed up with another tweet late Friday, saying he was more concerned with “EVERYDAY men and women” who don’t have the option to opt out of their jobs.

“Have u forgotten your parents & family members can’t opt out?” he said.

On Saturday, he added a tweet bristling at the backlash he received: “When did we as a people become so Sensitive, Soft, Skeptical & Sad?”

None of the league’s biggest stars have decided to sit out the season, though some key players have, including New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley, Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams and eight players from the New England Patriots, including Dont’a Hightower.

At the college level, several big names have chosen not to play to protect their health, their draft status or both. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Pittsburgh defensive lineman Jalen Twyman (H.D. Woodson High) were among potential first-round prospects to opt out this week.

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