Minnesota Vikings assistant Rick Dennison has reportedly left the team after refusing to take a vaccine for Covid-19, potenitally representing the first exit of its kind in the sport since jabs were made a requirement for staff.
In a ruling announced this summer, NFL bosses have ordered all staff at the designated ‘Tier 1’ elite coaching level of the sport to provide a valid religious or medical reason for not being vaccinated.
63-year-old Dennison, who won the Super Bowl three times as a coach with the Denver Broncos, where he also spent his entire playing career, has ended his two-season spell as the Vikings’ offensive line coach and run game co-ordinator because he chose not to take the treatment, according to ESPN sources.
Coaches who lose top-tier status cannot be on the field, in meeting rooms or have direct interactions with players, leading to assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher filling Dennison’s position, the report claimed.
#Vikings OL coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison is leaving the team after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, per @CourtneyRCronin. He has held the position the last 2 years. Phil Rauscher has been promoted from assistant offensive line coach to fill Dennison’s position
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) July 23, 2021
The Vikings are due to hold their first training camp practice on Wednesday, when Dennison’s 39 years in the senior sport were expected to be important in helping rookie boss Klint Kubiak, a 34-year-old promoted to the role his father, Gary, had previously held.
Dennison had spent decades working with Kubiak senior at the Broncos, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.
Thoughts and prayers for this rich white man who won’t make the most minimal effort to help society or his team
— Uncle Nintendo (@Goodsexhaver) July 23, 2021
As of Friday afternoon local time, the Vikings had neither publicly responded to the report nor made any statement on their official platforms about the coach who helped running back Dalvin Cook to a monster season in 2020.
Cook became the first Minnesota player to rush for at least 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season, accounting for almost a third of the Vikings’ scrimmage yards and giving the 25-year-old the second-highest rate in the NFL.
Cry me a river / The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. pic.twitter.com/KHTpPyG245
— The_JL_Podcast (@The_JL_Podcast) July 23, 2021
They didn’t fire him due to medical status, they are firing him because he can’t do the job due to a personal choice (which he has every right to make). If he doesn’t want to get vaxed, based on the NFL guidelines from yesterday, he could jeopardize the team so they move on.
— Brad Mahomes I (@FerrariMahomes) July 23, 2021
Fans were divided as the report spread that Dennison had become the first NFL coach to lose their job after refusing to be vaccinated, with many rowing about whether the measure would be a breach of rights and others claiming the veteran had been free to make a choice the team may not have agreed with.
“They didn’t fire him due to medical status,” argued one, speaking among an apparent majority of critics who showed little sympathy towards Dennison. “They are firing him because he can’t do the job due to a personal choice, which he has every right to make.
And he wasn’t terminated, he chose to quit because he refused to follow mandatory NFL protocols outlined for the safety of players and staff during a global deadly pandemic. We cannot move on from this unless we contain it.
— #FreeBritney! Girl – Latest Jedi (@GeekBrenda) July 23, 2021
“If he doesn’t want to get vaxed, based on the NFL guidelines, he could jeopardize the team, so they move on.”
Another echoed: “He wasn’t terminated. He chose to quit because he refused to follow mandatory NFL protocols outlined for the safety of players and staff during a global deadly pandemic. We cannot move on from this unless we contain it.”
imagine throwing away the bag over 2 shots that take 10 minutes of your time and they protect yourself and others and sets a good example
— Akinola Verissimo (@AkinolaGG) July 23, 2021
A self-described US Navy veteran retorted: “Society has lost their collective mind over a virus that kills far less than one percent [of people].
“Can’t watch any sport without being bombarded with woke bullsh*t and now this is the step towards corporate totalitarianism that will end my and many others’ NFL fandom.”
A media host said: “Imagine throwing away the bag [money] over two shots that take 10 minutes of your time, protect yourself and others and set a good example.”
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