Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, a three-time MVP blessed with a golden arm, has come down with Covid-19, but of course that’s not the crux of the story roiling the NFL. The story is about the way he was untruthful with the public and potentially put his teammates and other people at risk of infection.
If someone asks if you’ve been vaccinated, then your answer should be “yes” or “no.”
When asked about his vaccination status in August, Rodgers did not respond as Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley did: “You’re damn right I’m not vaxxed!” Nor did Rodgers play the privacy game and say he’d rather not share his personal medical information. Had he given either response, his testing positive for Covid-19 would be a one-day story and not one that has inspired a formal NFL investigation and has journalists licking their chops — that is, if they’re not currently being tested themselves for having been in a Packers press scrum.
The problem is, of course, if analyses like this ESPN report are to be believed, Aaron Rodgers lied. Many commentators are using kinder language, saying he elided the vaccination question in August or saying he “misled” the media.
But that’s giving Rodgers a pass. In these times when hospitals are overstretched and people are having to watch the funerals of their loved ones on Zoom, if someone asks if you’ve been vaccinated, then your answer should be “yes” or “no.” Even a “none of your business” would do (even though I believe the vaccination rate is all of our business), since it at least signals that there’s a possibility a person is not vaccinated. But if your answer is, "Yeah, I've been immunized” when you haven't been vaccinated, that’s a lie more fitting in the mouth of a politician.
Rodgers didn’t meet with reporters Wednesday, and Packers coach Matt LaFleur refused to answer questions about the quarterback’s vaccination status. Even so, it was clear that Rodgers wasn’t vaccinated as soon as the team announced that his positive Covid-19 test from that morning meant he was definitely out for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Per the NFL’s Covid protocols, a vaccinated player who tests positive on a Wednesday morning wouldn’t automatically be ruled out of a Sunday afternoon game. But unvaccinated players must isolate at least 10 days.
Rodgers’ defenders are coming up with some inventive answers to justify his response. Some say that because he was doing some kind of homeopathic therapy, he thought himself to be immunized. Well, Covid doesn’t care about postmodern wordplay, as Rodgers has surely found out.
Rodgers’ defenders are coming up with some inventive answers to justify his response.
In August, Rodgers asked the NFL to consider him “immunized” because of his home remedies. He was told no, that he was not “immunized” if he hadn’t been vaccinated and that no matter how many times he insisted he was “immunized,” it didn’t make it so. Rodgers’ answer is akin to stating you don’t believe in gravity as you fall out of an airplane.
But the problem isn’t just that Rodgers lied; it’s that his lie put others at risk. As an unvaccinated player, he should have had to go through a series of protocols — including wearing a mask when not in uniform or on the sideline and when talking to the media. He clearly did not do those things.
According to rules collectively bargained by the NFL and NFLPA, an unvaccinated player cannot gather in a group of more than three players, coaches or other members of the football operation staff. Rodgers was clearly doing all that, too. Per his social media posts, he even attended a Halloween party as John Wick, a fictional character known for his ability to dodge “shots.”
But reality isn’t the movies, homeopathic medicine (even when funded by millions of dollars) doesn’t stop Covid, and Rodgers isn’t bulletproof. Now we can expect investigations into the Green Bay Packers' coddling of Rodgers and management’s decision to let him function by a different set of rules — that is, allowing him to move about as if he were vaccinated when he wasn’t. This scandal will already cost Rodgers two games. It could also cost the team a mountain of fines and draft picks.
Recently, Rodgers has taken to blasting “woke culture” and cheerleading crypto-investments — along way from his soulful image as the Cal-Berkeley-educated QB who was defending Colin Kaepernick’s ability to play in the NFL just a few years ago. But I don’t particularly care about Rodgers’ recent personal and political transformation. The issue that matters is that his lie has put people at risk.
Given the grief that NBA players such as Kyrie Irving have received for refusing the vaccine, it’s important that the media not exhibit a double standard and go easy on Rodgers. If they do, then that will be yet another disappointing and infuriating story.
Rodgers could have either gotten vaccinated or had the courage to face a public and media who would have expressed disappointment that he would put the season and his teammates at risk. Instead, a promising Packers season has hit a rough spot from which it may not recover, and Rodgers, who’d been carefully cultivating the image of himself as a moody introspective leader of men, instead looks like a thin-skinned prevaricator.