The big 'little' lies of Aaron Rodgers

Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Aaron Rodgers is a selfish man.

The three-time MVP who led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 is a superb quarterback who most NFL franchises would have killed to have on their squad — until last week.

A midweek diagnosis that Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 forced the aging but still effective quarterback to miss Sunday's game against Kansas City. It also generated questions about the honesty of the team's leader on the field once it became clear that it wasn't a case of a breakthrough infection.

Contrary to NFL recommendations, Aaron Rodgers is not vaccinated. He lied to the NFL, his teammates and the fans who are the literal stockholders in the league's only fan-co-owned franchise about his vaccination status.

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Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers walks off the field following the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on Oct. 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 24-21. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/TNS)

Aaron Rodgers wanted to play football and accept tens of millions annually in compensation for it while pretending to follow the one non-negotiable rule all players have to agree to: get vaccinated or go home. The rule is clear and unequivocal.

Rodgers chose to lie by telling a reporter that he was "immunized," which is a weasel word in retrospect and should've made every journalist automatically suspicious.

Rodgers blamed the reporter for not asking a follow-up question that would've made it clear that he was using ivermectin, pixie dust and magical thinking as part of a homeopathic protocol that would not fit the NFL's definition of being vaccinated.

Offbeat: "Look, I'm not some sort of anti-vax flat-Earther," he said, which was hilarious coming from someone who subcontracts his medical opinions to MMA analyst/comedian-turned-podcaster Joe Rogan. "I'm somebody who's a critical thinker. You guys know me. I march to the beat of my own drum."

At that point, the cliché-meter exploded as the rant exploded into a tsunami of paranoid right-wing talking points: "I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something.

"Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. And for me, it involved a lot of study in the offseason. I put a lot of time and energy researching this and met with a lot of people to get the most information about the vaccines before I made my decision."

After explaining that he had an "allergy" to some of the ingredients in two of the three vaccines and that the third vaccine was ruled out because it could cause clotting issues, he said he approached the NFL during the preseason and made a good-faith effort to have "alternative medicines" classified as "immunity" from another source.

The NFL says it was not aware of any such attempt to change the rules but that it wouldn't have mattered. The answer would've been no.

The league has always been consistent: Get the jab if you don't want to endure daily testing, mask-wearing and isolation from your teammates.

In response to that, Aaron Rodgers strongly implied that he got the jab.

That's infuriating to his colleagues who did get the jab and who believed that everyone on the field was adhering to very clear guidelines about it. It's infuriating to fans who expect players to perform at their peak and not miss games because they're avoidably sick or contagious with a deadly disease. It's galling to everyone he's put in danger by proximity because he refused to honor the social contract they all agreed to when they said they were vaccinated.

As far as Rodgers is concerned, he wasn't being "deceptive" in the usual sense by telling the world he was vaccinated when he wasn't. He was simply resorting to the sin of omission in a strategic way. Besides, everyone knows that Aaron Rodgers has always played by his own rules and can't be held to the same plain-spoken rules that bind less imaginative mortals.

"The great MLK said, 'You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense,'" Rodgers said throwing in his anti-vax lot with the Montgomery bus boycotters, sanitation workers on strike and lunch-counter protesters. Yes, he compared the unvaccinated to the victims of segregationist violence.

'Which' hunt? for $1,000 please: But like any cornered scoundrel in these terrible times we live in, Rodgers chose to blame the "woke mob," cancel culture and the ever-reliable, ever-Trumpian "witch hunt" rather than interrogate his own personal dishonesty as a cause of his current predicament.

Rodgers considered the NFL's push to get its players vaccinated a violation of his bodily integrity, which is certainly his right. His strong feelings about the issue should have dictated his voluntary removal from the game. The problem is that he ignored the NFL's rules and falsified his status.

The NFL has a stake in the health and safety of its players and the public, especially during a global pandemic that will likely be with us for at least a few more years. Aaron Rodgers doesn't seem to understand the communal aspect of the NFL's guidelines. He sees it strictly as an infringement on his freedom to be Aaron Rodgers, a bold iconoclast in an age of extreme wokeness. Whatever!

That's why retired Steelers quarterback and "Fox NFL Sunday" host Terry Bradshaw's response to Rodgers' insufferable narcissism over the weekend was so refreshing.

"It would've been nice if he could've come to the Naval Academy and learned how to be honest, learn not to lie," Bradshaw said as students at the academy cheered him on. "Because that's what you did, Aaron. You lied to everyone.

"We are a divided nation politically," Bradshaw continued. "We are a divided nation on the COVID-19, whether or not to take the vaccine. And, unfortunately, we've got players that pretty much think only about themselves, and I'm extremely disappointed in the actions of Aaron Rodgers."

Three-quarters of million Americans dead: The response to Rodgers' lies was pretty much universal among sportscasters, sports writers and Green Bay fans: disgust and anger. Only the amen corner of anti-vaxxers at Fox News and other conspiracy-laden sites consider Rodgers' lies a reasonable response to a league trying to protect itself from a deadly contagion that has killed 750,000 Americans.

For his part, Rodgers continues to engage in the self-deception that he's been honest and upfront about his status the whole time but that we simply didn't listen because we're too infected by wokeness to hear him.

A few months ago, Aaron Rodgers had a weeklong tryout as a possible host of "Jeopardy!" The reviews of his performance were decent but not stellar. Everyone agreed that he didn't embarrass himself and that he came across as credible and intellectually engaging. Although he was a long shot, some said he was the kind of renaissance man the show could use.

Fast forward to last weekend. It's hard to believe that the same man ranting about vaccines "interfering" with male fertility was in serious contention to represent the values of intellectual rigor and seriousness a "Jeopardy!" host has to radiate.

In one 20-minute diatribe, Aaron Rodgers succeeded in making himself the Nicki Minaj of the NFL.

How someone comes back from the loss of credibility like that in a locker room where his word should be his bond will be interesting. Getting back into the team's good graces may be even harder than turning the Packers into Super Bowl contenders this year.