Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback with the million-dollar arm and the 10-cent head, has spent the season whining about a “woke mob” and “cancel culture police” that he says are out to get him because of his refusal to get vaccinated and his lying about his vaccination status for weeks.
Herbie Ankush said, “I don’t think you can be the biggest jerk in the league and be the Most Valuable Player."
It was highly ironic, then, to see an online mob Wednesday descend not on Rodgers but on a sportswriter who dared to say that Rodgers’ reckless, prima donna antics off the field would prevent him from voting for Rodgers as the NFL’s most valuable player.
That sportswriter, Herbie “Hub” Arkush, executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, minced no words when he said in a Tuesday radio interview, “I don’t think you can be the biggest jerk in the league and punish your team and your organization and your fan base the way he did and be the most valuable player. Has he been the most valuable on the field? Yeah, you could make that argument, but I don’t think he is clearly that much more valuable than Jonathan Taylor or Cooper Kupp or maybe even Tom Brady. So from where I sit, the rest of it is why he’s not gonna be my choice.” (Taylor is a running back for the Indianapolis Colts, Kupp a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams and Brady the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
The macho world of football, which includes journalists and fans, clutched their pearls and dived for the nearest fainting couch, claiming that Arkush’s invocation of Rodgers’ off-field behavior was out of bounds, with many arguing for Arkush to be stripped of his vote. Rodgers, suddenly happy to further inflame a mob, said of Arkush at a news conference: “He’s a bum … an absolute bum. ... His problem is I’m not vaccinated.”
Then, in a poor effort at wit, Rodgers said the NFL should change the name of the award to the “most vaccinated player” because what’s more risible than trying to protect oneself and others against a virus that has killed almost 900,000 people in the U.S. and more than 5 million worldwide?
Rodgers, in his petulance, ignored the substance of Arkush’s opposition to his being named MVP. It is not about Rodgers’ vaccination status but about everything else: the whining in the off-season, the threats to never return to the team because the Packers had drafted his future replacement; the season opener against the New Orleans Saints when Rodgers played like he was half interested in the outcome; and, of course, Rodgers prevaricating about whether he had been vaccinated, telling reporters when asked that he was “immunized.” He wasn’t vaccinated. He was forced to sit out a game when he tested positive for Covid-19, a game the Packers lost badly.
Rodgers, in his petulance, ignored the substance of Arkush’s opposition to his being named MVP.
After Rodgers’ comments and the surrounding uproar had turned Arkush’s life inside out for 24 hours, he recanted – sort of. He apologized for going public with his feelings, saying, "I made a big mistake. As far as what happened last night, it's on me. I screwed up."
But Arkush held firm on Rodgers, making it clear that his mistake "doesn't have much to do with Aaron Rodgers." Arkush was apologizing, he said, because he "failed to respect" the unspoken rule that those voting for NFL MVP not discuss their votes before winners are announced.
Lost in all of this, however, is the fact that Arkush made a damn good point. By any statistical measure, Rodgers should be the league’s MVP. But those who think raising the issue of who Rodgers is off-field is out of bounds need to think again. Imagine if Rodgers had the same gaudy statistics, but his team was mired in mediocrity. Imagine if his off-field childishness and rank mendacity had caused an outbreak on the Packers that cost them several games. Would he still be as valuable? Of course not. He’d be a selfish athlete who submarined his team because he put his own interests before the health and safety of his teammates. It would make him the antithesis of valuable. It would make him toxic.
But wins cure all ills, and amid his stellar season, Rodgers has instead channeled his toxicity toward the general public, the media, the “woke mobs” out to get him as he snuggles himself in a blanket of arrogance and self-pity. He continues to put out false information about vaccines. He quotes Martin Luther King Jr. and promotes himself as a kind of martyr.
But Rodgers cheering as a mob supporting him attacks Arkush has laid the reality of the situation bare. Rodgers is nobody’s victim. Instead, he’s in favor of someone being vilified for not liking him, for expressing the idea that while Rodgers may be valuable on a football field, when the pads are off, he’s the loud and obnoxious uncle at the holiday dinner table who quotes his own Facebook posts.
Look at Aaron Rodgers: egging on a mob to go after a free thinker who did his own research.