Buffalo Bills receiver Cole Beasley has become an unlikely main character of the NFL offseason for his staunch refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and his equally staunch commitment to arguing with Twitter users about it. He is not the only prominent NFL player to publicly disavow the vaccine or question its efficacy, but he has been the loudest and most consistent in his ignorance. Beasley’s platform as a self-appointed anti-vax ombudsman has only become more prominent since the league announced that teams with outbreaks among unvaccinated players risk forfeiting games.
The group of people irritated with Beasley includes his teammates, and position group peers, Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders. Both of them pointedly framed their own decisions to get vaccinated in explicit football terms (“Don’t have time to deal with no BS during the season”), as did Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I suppose it shows that Michael Irvin’s approach of framing vaccination as part of a winning football mindset is an effective one. At this point 80 percent of NFL players are vaccinated, and only five teams have yet to reach a 70 percent vaccination rate. Still the window is shrinking for jabs to be administered before the season starts.
Beasley is committed to slowing any progress on that front. During Wednesday’s team media session, the receiver recited a statement from his phone. It was wrong and idiotic and intentionally misleading in all the expected ways, and beautifully ironic in that Beasley declared all these concerns about his safety and health while wearing a mask that didn’t cover his nose. The surprising part was that the Bills tweeted out a video of his remarks:
Beasley’s distinction between being anti-vax and “pro-choice” is meaningless, as well as a selfish misread of the dynamic in play here. It is a hell of a thing to say that “information is being withheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with,” without specifying what information is supposedly being withheld, and by whom, and where Beasley might’ve come across that samizdat (put your life savings on the answer being “social media”). Beasley also claimed the vaccine is “proven to not keep people from contracting COVID,” which is a willful misunderstanding of a vaccine’s purpose. While breakthrough infections are happening across the country due to the surge of the Delta variant, the vaccines have proven to be quite effective at preventing serious, life-threatening infections. The vast, vast, vast majority of people dying of COVID are unvaccinated. Beasley cynically casting himself as an advocate for “young players who don’t have a voice” is just a way to dress up his replacement-level grievance in more professional language, cribbing a union’s approach as if this is an issue that should merit the same amount of discussion and negotiation as a 17-game season.
There’s little hope that Beasley will change. The real question is: Why the fuck would the Bills broadcast this to the world? Even if Beasley’s built up some sort of cachet with a small segment of NFL players, there’s a hard ceiling on how much attention he can grab, especially since he can rarely form a coherent sentence. But couched within a professional tone and with the backing of his team, suddenly his lies are supposed to be given equal consideration. This is how you get ESPN’s framing of his statement as a dispute over “proper information.” We asked the Bills what information Beasley believed was being withheld, and why they promoted their player saying the vaccine didn’t work. We’ll update this post if they respond.
Bills GM Brandon Beane spoke before Beasley at Wednesday’s presser, and he was asked about his WR’s tweets. “Guys are trying to educate themselves,” he said. “They’re trying to look at all sides. But, we’ve got professionals. And we allow them to express their views.” Beasley’s had the available information for months now, but he’s only shown interest in expressing his own views. And for some reason, the Bills believe it’s valuable for the rest of us to listen to a medical opinion from an NFL player whose only motivation is to throw tantrums and promote his shitty album.