National columnists react to revelation that Aaron Rodgers is unvaccinated after COVID-19 diagnosis

JR Radcliffe
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Aaron Rodgers has come under national scrutiny for misleading comments about his COVID-19 immunization.

National sports columnists didn't have many kind things to say about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after the Wednesday revelation that he wasn't vaccinated according to NFL guidelines. That means the COVID-19 diagnosis Rodgers received will definitely keep him out of Sunday's game against the Chiefs and threatens his availability for a game against Seattle a week later.

A sample of the reaction to the situation:

Nancy Armour of USA Today lays out the problems with Rodgers' unwillingness to be truthful — or to get the vaccine in the first place.

"If Rodgers truly believes in, say, a homeopathic remedy, then own that," she wrote. "Explain why he believes it’s preferable to one of the three vaccines recognized by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Enlighten us all as to what he trusts more than the advice of the world’s most renowned scientific experts and medical professionals, who say vaccination provides the best defense against COVID-19.

"Or maybe Rodgers, who has built a Hall of Fame career out of criticism of him, simply didn’t want to take the heat. He knew he’d be criticized like Cousins, Beasley and other players who have resisted vaccines, particularly those who’ve spouted nonsense in their defense, and he didn’t want to deal with it. Especially after an ugly off-season when he was so unhappy with the Packers front office that he contemplated retirement."

Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post said Rodgers is entitled to his own remedy, but isn't entitled to lie about it.

"Good luck to Rodgers rolling this one back," she wrote. "He will now be known as a guy who is slicker than his TV hair, who thought he was unique, too much so to follow rules, and more precious than anyone in the room. May he make a speedy return to the Green Bay Packers with no symptoms, but as for sympathy, that should be diverted to people who shared spaces with him when he was unmasked, who now have to sit around and wonder whether they brought something home because he was too coy with the coronavirus. ...

"Obviously, it’s Rodgers’s choice whether to get vaxxed, and there are plenty of defensible reasons not to — and he should be able to hold his beliefs without being publicly demeaned. But what Rodgers did was demeaning to others. He also had a choice about whether to be forthright about his status or be duplicitous. He chose the second option and apparently went around unmasked to make it convincing. Rodgers betrayed another belief with those actions — or, rather, a lack of belief. He does not believe that we all have to share some sacrifices in getting through this wretched minor-keys measure of history. Only you do. Not him. Your pandemic is not his concern. He is indifferent to it."

Dan Wiederer of Chicago Tribune points out that Rodgers' moment of misdirection stood in contrast with the rest of his news conference before the season, when he offered  honesty about his feelings regarding the Packers front office.

"Rodgers spoke that afternoon for 31 minutes, answered 21 questions and did so with admirable candor," he wrote. "He was engaged in the back-and-forth and provided detailed responses to pressing questions.

"He explained his feelings about the disgruntlement he had felt toward management, particularly general manager Brian Gutekunst. He expressed his desire to have more input in the way the organization sets its course. He came across as forthright, frank and fully confident in his stances.

"He sounded like a leader.

"Four weeks later, however, in the 18th minute of an otherwise routine preseason news conference, Rodgers made a calculated decision to steer around the truth." 

Charles Robinson of suggested that the situation could hurt Rodgers in another way, because now Jordan Love has a free shot to show what he can do.

"Rodgers just gave Jordan Love an opportunity he never should have had. Not only two weeks of first-team practice snaps while Rodgers sits to the side in his 10-day purgatory, but also at least one game against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. And maybe a second against the Seattle Seahawks the following week. For a front office that has wanted to get a look at Love, there will be no better snapshot than the next 10 days, all showcasing what life would be like preparing him to be the starter in a meaningful situation. Not to mention giving fans a sneak preview of what could be in the pipeline. That’s the opportunity. And on the other side of it is the excuse. The one (GM Brian) Gutekunst will have if Love flourishes inside this window. If the front office has indeed been planning to write Rodgers out of the team’s future plans, he may have just handed it a quill and ink."

For a far less reserved take, Drew Magary of SFGate offers the scathing, "Aaron Rodgers sucks and has always sucked." 

"I’d like the press to ask ALL unvaccinated athletes when they plan on getting vaccinated. At every press conference. And if those players claim they have been vaccinated, I want it verified. Because Rodgers just taught athletes that you can lie and no one will bother to catch you until the protocols do. I’d like NFL announcers, who barely mention unvaccinated players on the air much less criticize them, to note the potential damage that Rodgers just did to both himself and to his peers by being a selfish (bleep). I’d like ol’ Roger Goodell to weigh in here. He’s got nothing to do, since he’s letting the Washington Football Team email scandal blow over, so why NOT openly castigate someone who isn’t his boss?"

JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

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