DeSantis administration targets Bucs over employee vaccine requirement

A health official in the administration called a specific job listing illegal.
Fans raise flags during the Los Angeles Rams vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022.
Fans raise flags during the Los Angeles Rams vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published June 16, 2022|Updated June 17, 2022

Officials with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration took to Twitter this week to voice their frustration at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ vaccination requirement for new employees, with Florida’s Department of Health Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern calling a specific job listing illegal.

A Bucs hiring announcement for an in-season video production intern stipulates: “All new hires are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide verification of vaccination prior to the commencement of employment. Fully vaccinated means at least two weeks after the final dose of the J&J, Moderna, or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.”

“This is against Florida law,” Redfern tweeted.

Florida law allows private employers to mandate vaccines, so long as they provide individual exemptions allowing an employee to “opt out” based on one of five carveouts. The carveouts are for those who have medical reasons like pregnancy, those who have already been infected with COVID-19, those who have religious objections, those who agree to periodic testing and those who agree to wearing personal protective equipment.

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In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs said the team updated their COVID vaccination policy on Nov. 19 last year, one day after the DeSantis’ Executive Order, to accommodate the prescribed exemptions. “We have at all times been in full compliance with state law and have granted exemptions when requested. We continuously review and update our COVID policies based on guidance from government officials, the NFL, and our medical experts,” the statement said.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, retweeted Redfern, adding, “Caught in 4K.”

Pushaw took issue with the Bucs listing because it did not state they were allowing for individual exemptions, she told the Times.

“If the Bucs were to clarify that their policy includes the exemptions that are required by Florida law, that would be fine,” she said. “But their hiring announcement doesn’t say that.”

The National Football League and the NFL Players Association agreed in March to drop all COVID-19 protocols for the 2022 season after nearly two years of following restrictions.

The league ceased requirements for masks, tracking devices, surveillance testing or capacity limits unless required by state or local laws, becoming the first major professional American sports league to drop all protocols.

Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rules make it easy for workers to opt out, according to experts.

The DeSantis administration has long criticized COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Last year, the governor issued an executive order to prohibit businesses from requiring people to show they had been vaccinated to gain entry. Florida lawmakers later made permanent a ban on so-called “vaccine passports.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccines help protect people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.