Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers blasts 'woke mob' over COVID-19 news on Pat McAfee show, rips NFL's 'draconian' protocols
GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers knows better. Never forget that. He is a “critical thinker,” the serum to what he sees as the “woke culture,” otherwise known as people who disagree with him.
“I march,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback puts it, “to the beat of my own drum.”
Rodgers thinks he knows more than the NFL. On Friday, he explained to "The Pat McAfee Show" – his communicative home field – the winding route that led him to his second hailstorm in six months, this one more deeply personal than whether or not he would wear a block G on the side of his helmet this season.
The swirling controversy comes after Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Rodgers said he first had symptoms Tuesday night, felt ill as of late Thursday, but the symptoms dissipated by Friday. The three-time MVP will not play Sunday when the Packers travel to the Kansas City Chiefs, and because he is not vaccinated, Rodgers can’t return until Nov. 13 at the earliest. That threatens the Packers being without their quarterback for a second game, because they host the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 14.
That risk was avoidable had Rodgers submitted to the COVID-19 vaccination guidelines agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA. He instead underwent a journey of self-truth, marching to that beat of his own drum.
“I realize I'm in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now,” Rodgers told McAfee. “So before my final nail gets put in my canceled-culture casket, I think I'd like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself right now.”
When COVID-19 vaccinations were made public this spring, Rodgers said he did not have the same opportunities as the majority of the public. Rodgers said he is allergic to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna. He accurately cited the CDC’s warning that people allergic to the Polyethylene glycol ingredient choose another form of protection against the virus.
Rodgers still could have chosen the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the NFL and NFLPA also agreed to as acceptable protection to avoid more stringent protocol. He instead gathered “more than 500 pages of research on the efficacy of immunizations, all the latest research surrounding my case.” Rodgers studied the science behind mask wearing, what was known and unknown about COVID-19 vaccines, how long antibodies last.
He collected his information with an unspecified group of medical professionals, which he only referred to as “my medical team.” Rodgers did not specify who was on that team, except that Joe Rogan was someone he consulted. That would be comedian, TV personality and podcast host Joe Rogan.
Rodgers ultimately lost his petition to the NFL. He said the Packers have been aware of his vaccination status throughout this season. Invoking Martin Luther King Jr., Rodgers defended his decision to not follow NFL "draconian" guidelines regarding vaccination.
“The great MLK said, ‘You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules,’” Rodgers said, “and rules that make no sense. In my opinion, it makes no sense for me.”
The NFL’s protocol for unvaccinated players means Rodgers has followed strict guidelines this season. Rodgers said he gets tested at 5 a.m. each day. He’s required to wait in his vehicle 30 to 40 minutes after the test before being permitted to enter the building, enough time for results to return. Vaccinated players, he said, are allowed to enter team facilities immediately.
In the building, Rodgers said he works out to the side while vaccinated players are able to congregate in the weight room. He chided the NFL for making him wear a yellow wristband in the team sauna, “basically shouting to the world I’m unclean and I’m unvaxxed.” He’s required to wear a mask inside the Packers’ football facilities every day, although he has consistently conducted interviews inside the Lambeau Field media auditorium without wearing a mask, even while every other person in the room is required to be vaccinated and wear a mask.
“Some of the rules to me are not based in science at all,” Rodgers said. “They’re based purely in trying to out and shame people. Like needing to wear a mask at the podium when every person in the room is vaccinated and wearing a mask makes no sense to me. If you got vaccinated to protect yourself from a virus that I don’t have as an unvaccinated individual, then why are you worried about anything that I can give you?”
On the road, Rodgers said he can’t leave the team hotel. It’s precluded him from attending team dinners, even on days that start with a negative COVID-19 test in the morning. Rodgers attended a Halloween party last weekend, not wearing a mask. He did not mention the Halloween party Friday.
Rodgers isn’t the only unvaccinated Packers player. The team, starting with coach Matt LaFleur, has routinely taken a stance that it is a personal decision with no right or wrong. Lagging at 19th in the NFL in percentage of vaccinated players in training camp, Rodgers said the league sent a representative to educate Packers players about the health benefits. A “stooge,” Rodgers called the rep.
In the meeting, Rodgers said, he raised his hand to “challenge” what the rep had to say. Rodgers said he heard from “many” players and coaches who thanked him after the meeting for standing up for their belief to not be vaccinated.
“It’s hard for those people,” Rodgers said, “especially people who don’t have a position of leadership or any type of power, to stand up to things that don’t make any sense. The coercion that was forced on some of these individuals, without the opportunity to have an exemption based on preexisting conditions, medical exemption or religious exemption, to me was a little bit inhumane.”
Rodgers said he’s been taking monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, zinc, vitamins C and D, and that he feels “pretty incredible” days after testing positive. Ivermectin is a controversial drug that has become part of a budding medical conspiracy theory, experts say.
A small contingent of doctors and some social media influencers say it is effective at both preventing COVID-19 and treating it, but solid medical research has failed to show that. And major health organizations say it should not be used outside of a clinical trial.
In fact, some research has found the drug does not work against COVID-19, though the final word has not been written because it still is being tested a couple large clinical trials, one in the U.S. and one in Great Britain.
In a recent large trial, the drug failed to show a significant benefit against COVID-19. That trial indicates that ivermectin is not a miracle pill and is very unlikely to have substantial benefit as a COVID-19 treatment, said F. Perry Wilson, an associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, who teaches a course at Yale on how to understand medical research. Wilson said he is concerned the ivermectin conspiracy theory gives people permission not to change their behavior such as getting vaccinated or wearing a mask.
In humans, the FDA has approved ivermectin to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms and for the skin disorder, rosacea. In animals, it is used as a de-worming treatment.
Rodgers repeatedly called for de-politicization of coronavirus, though he simultaneously interjected politics into his conversation with McAfee.
“Health should not be political,” Rodgers said. “It shouldn’t be that (former President) Trump endorsed Ivermectin and HCQ (hydroxychloroquine), and so take that (expletive) off, it doesn’t work. I mean, in general, look at, we all should’ve been a little hesitant when Trump in 2020 was championing these vaccines that were coming so quick, what did the left say? Don’t trust the vaccine, don’t get the vaccine, you’re going to die from the vaccine. And then what happened? Biden wins, and everything flips.”
Rodgers’ comments came as the Packers started their Friday practice, one day before traveling to Kansas City without their quarterback. What could be considered another distraction in a week full of them was something LaFleur shrugged off. LaFleur, showing his weariness of answering COVID-19 questions by the end of his 10-minute press conference, said he “most likely” will not watch his quarterback’s interview with McAfee.
Receiver Davante Adams, a close friend to Rodgers, said he had no issue with his quarterback’s decision to not get vaccinated, even if he misses an additional game.
“I'm pro choice,” Adams said, “for whatever you want to do. It's bigger than just winning football games."
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Rodgers used his bigger-than-football platform to provide his side of what has become another controversy surrounding the quarterback. It was a response to backlash that might have been greatly reduced, if it occurred at all, had the quarterback been forthright when asked Aug. 26 whether he was vaccinated. Rodgers instead said was “immunized,” then drew a line between vaccinated players and those unvaccinated, appearing to place himself in the former.
On Friday, the quarterback was adamant he had not lied. Rodgers did not say whether he misled, though he offered motivations for not being upfront, saying he wanted to avoid being included in what he saw as a leaguewide “witch hunt” of unvaccinated players.
“My plan,” he said, “was to say that I’ve been immunized. It wasn’t some sort of ruse, or a lie. It was the truth.”
On Friday, Rodgers offered his version of the truth.
John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.