In season-ending interview on 'The Pat McAfee Show,' Aaron Rodgers says 'love and debate' will help get the world out of COVID-19 pandemic
The world has learned all about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his COVID-19 beliefs from his weekly appearances on "The Pat McAfee Show" throughout the 2021 NFL season.
With the Packers' season over after their stunning 13-10 loss in the NFC divisional playoff round Saturday, Rodgers returned to the show Tuesday one final time.
And he took listeners down memory lane in case anyone forgot in an hourlong conversation serving as somewhat of a year in review on the roller-coaster ride that was Rodgers and COVID-19. His playing future was also a hot topic on Tuesday's show.
Rodgers became in some ways more talked about over his decision to not be vaccinated, his displeasure over the NFL's health and safety protocols, cancel culture, the "woke mob" and his relationship with podcast host Joe Rogan, than his brilliant play on the football field in 2021.
He reflected on that as he sat in his home three days after his season and possibly his career in Green Bay abruptly ended.
Rodgers felt "there were a ton of people tuning in rooting against us for one reason and one reason only, it's because of my vaccination status and them wanting to see us lose so they could pile on and enjoy and revel in the fact that my vaccination status was some sort of reason why we haven't had success in the playoffs."
Rodgers said he realizes his willingness to talk about his vaccination status has been "divisive" but he never set out to be a "divisive, polarizing" figure. He maintains he doesn't want to be an activist and calls politics "a sham," though he has brought President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump into the conversation on multiple occasions.
"I don't want to be a politicized person," Rodgers said Tuesday. "I don't want my views bolstering the anti-vaxxers and triggering the vaxxed people. I want to be somebody who has an opinion, who shares it, who does research, but who is also open to hearing both sides."
He also wants to be a source of inspiration for people to be unapologetically themselves, something he said the McAfee show has allowed him to be.
Rodgers blames media for causing fear around COVID-19
Taking a broader look, Rodgers said he has done a lot of reflection to "embrace the empathy of the situation."
He said he feels most empathy for the people who have fear around COVID-19.
And he blames the media for creating "fear porn" and causing "a lot of strife and stress."
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Rodgers doesn't have fear because he doesn't subscribe to the "mainstream narrative" on COVID-19.
Instead the Packers' three-time MVP quarterback, who is the favorite to win a fourth, reiterated what he has said many times over the last several months, in that he took his health into his own hands and did his own research.
Rodgers submitted a 500-page report to the NFL last offseason hoping his homeopathic treatments he took in place of the COVID-19 vaccines would constitute as being vaccinated. The NFL denied his request.
He previously said he had an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and had other concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Rodgers' infamous "immunized" comment from last August was well crafted, he said Tuesday, because that was "at the crux" of his appeal against the NFL's decision to label him an unvaccinated player. His positive COVID-19 test in early November that forced him to sit out 10 days and miss a game revealed his unvaccinated status to the public.
AJ Hawk asks Rodgers if he's going to listen to Neil Young in light of Joe Rogan Spotify controversy
Rodgers listens to and encourages others to tune into "The Joe Rogan Experience," a widely listened to podcast on Spotify in which the comedian and UFC broadcaster promotes COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
On Tuesday, McAfee's co-host and close friend of Rodgers, A.J. Hawk, asked Rodgers if he was going to listen to Neil Young songs during the offseason. Hawk was referencing the fact that the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said this week he wants his music removed from Spotify because of Rogan's presence there. The comment drew a smirk from Rodgers.
After Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 in early November, he drew attention for saying he sought advice from Rogan and took a drug — ivermectin — that hasn't been approved to treat COVID-19.
"I don't believe hatred and fear and name calling and any of this stuff is going to get us out of this pandemic," Rodgers said Tuesday. "It's going to be love and connection and debate."
Medical health experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said vaccinations are a critical measure for ending the pandemic, limiting future variants, and are the best protection against severe COVID-19 hospitalizations and death. Masks have also been tools to limit the spread.
Unvaccinated people are more likely to end up in the hospital and die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated, national and Wisconsin data has shown. As immunity wanes from the initial two-dose vaccine, a booster is also 90% effective at keeping people infected with the omicron variant out of the hospital, new CDC data shows.
"It's a pandemic of health, not the unvaccinated," Rodgers repeated Tuesday.
That comment is a reference to the White House and Biden. Rodgers made headlines just before the Packers' divisional round game for calling out Biden in an interview with ESPN in response to the president saying Rodgers should be vaccinated.
"My goal has been to encourage people to take their health in their own hands in what they’re eating and putting into their bodies," Rodgers said. "I hope I’ve inspired people."
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COVID-19 is an airborne disease that is transmissible from people and has infected more than 72 million people in the U.S. and killed 870,000 Americans. While those with underlying conditions have been especially hit hard by COVID-19, the virus has struck every age group and long-term effects of the virus are still being studied.
Rodgers continues to be critic of NFL's COVID-19 protocols
Rodgers has also been critical of the NFL for its protocols throughout the season, saying the league created a two-class system of the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, labeling it "a witch-hunt." There were more testing and restrictions for unvaccinated players this season.
"It was my assertion and still is today some of the policies the league imposed on the nonvaccinated had nothing to do with health," Rodgers contested Tuesday and instead said the league was just implementing strict measures to "coerce higher vaccination rates."
Despite being required to wear a mask as an unvaccinated player, Rodgers conducted his media interviews unmasked before his positive test because he said he felt that rule had nothing to do with health.
He was later fined $14,650 for violating the league's protocols after attending a Halloween party without a mask on with more people allowed for unvaccinated players outside the team facility.
He said in 10 years when people look back on the situation he feels people will scratch their heads over the protocols.
Rodgers did acknowledge that he'll "probably look back and say maybe I shouldn't have said that, I should have said it this way. Hindsight is definitely 20/20."
Despite everything, Rodgers said the season has been "enjoyable."
"I've never played better in the face of such an adverse year," Rodgers said. "I have so much gratitude for the lessons I learned from this year."