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#pounditSaturday, December 5, 2020

No, NFL players will not have to wear masks under new Pennsylvania order

Roger Goodell

The State of Pennsylvania issued updated COVID-19 protocols this week that left some under the impression that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and their opponents will be required to wear masks during games going forward, but that is not the case.

New language added to Pennsylvania’s mask mandate earlier this week states that athletes must wear masks during competition, which they were not previously required to do. The Steelers issued a statement on Wednesday saying they were exempt from the regulations, and things got even more confusing when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Thursday that NFL teams must also follow the guidelines and have not been granted an exemption.

So what is going on? While NFL teams have not been granted their own special exemption, they’re covered. Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten has since clarified that the team is covered under Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Universal Face Covering Order. That section provides exemptions for athletes including for “respiratory issues that impede breathing” while playing a sport. NFL teams can argue that players will not be able to breathe properly while playing if they’re required to wear masks. The governor’s office alluded to that in an update on Friday.

Coaches, staff members, medical personnel, media members, stadium workers and fans will all be required to wear face coverings, but that has been the case all season. From the sound of it, no significant changes will come from the updated mask mandate.

The NFL has already handed down some very harsh disciplinary action to teams that have violated COVID-19 protocols. Forcing coaches to wear masks has been difficult enough, and having players do it would likely be almost impossible.

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