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After being fined $14,650 by the NFL, Bills’ Isaiah McKenzie shows his vaccine card

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie says he has begun the process of being vaccinated against covid-19. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press)
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Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie wanted everyone to know that he had received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine days after the NFL fined him nearly $15,000 for repeatedly not wearing a mask inside the team’s facility, a breach of the league’s pandemic protocol.

McKenzie brought a receipt, too, showing a vaccine card that indicated he had received the Pfizer vaccine Saturday in an Instagram story. Alongside the card was a close-up of his wide-eyed expression — with his face masked — and the words “for the greater good,” accompanied by a smiley face and thumbs up emoji.

On Thursday, McKenzie announced the fine, tweeting a copy of the first page of the NFL’s letter telling him his paycheck would be docked. “They got me! @NFL you win!” he wrote. He had been issued a warning by the league on July 27, the day before Bills training camp opened.

The NFL wrote that McKenzie, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick by Denver, had twice failed to wear a mask. The first time he walked through the field house en route to the trainer’s room and the second offense came later in the day when he was near other players in a meeting area of the weight room. Under NFL rules, the first offense for a protocol violation results in a $14,650 fine and repeat violations can lead to a suspension or a fine of a week’s salary.

“For players who are not fully vaccinated against covid-19, like you, your conduct is expressly prohibited by the protocols,” the NFL wrote. “Again, your conduct potentially compromised not only your safety, but the safety of others, as well as the league’s ability to ensure that your club’s training camp is conducted in a safe manner.”

Seeming at odds with players, NFL says it wants vaccine mandate to ‘go into effect tomorrow’

As of last week, the Bills ranked lower than most NFL teams, with about 80 percent of players vaccinated. Nearly 93 percent of players and over 99 percent of staff have been vaccinated, the NFL announced last week. It also has proposed to the NFL Players Association testing vaccinated players once a week rather than biweekly; the NFLPA has proposed daily testing for all. Unvaccinated players must be tested daily.

Wide receiver Cole Beasley revealed that he had also been fined for not wearing a mask, writing on Twitter: “Don’t worry they got me too. But I was wearing a mask when I was in close contact with fully vaxxed trainer who tested positive and still got sent home. So what’s the point of the mask anyways? Meanwhile I’m here still testing negative and can’t come back. Make it make sense.”

In June, Beasley said he’d retire rather than be vaccinated because the vaccine had not at that point been approved by the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine was approved last week but he added after being fined that he planned to “exhaust all options before retiring and try to change as much as I can for the other unvaccinated players. They are not protected at all. They have to protect themselves from the vaccinated players and staff. Which is almost impossible since they’re tested 1/14 days.”

Coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that the team’s vaccine issues placed it at a competitive disadvantage. “It’s tough. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging, however you want to say it,” he told reporters, “but I can’t make the decision for them.”

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