On Nov. 3, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19. The test result caused a media firestorm. Many NFL fans were under the impression that Aaron Rodgers was vaccinated after Rodgers replied he was “immunized” to a question asking about his vaccination status in late August. However, it is now known that he was referring to a pseudoscientific homeopathic treatment, something that offers no protection against the coronavirus.
Rodgers explained that he consulted podcast host Joe Rogan about medical advice for treating COVID-19 and he mentioned the use of ivermectin in his medical regimen. Ivermectin is not an approved treatment for COVID-19. Rodgers had presented research to the National Football League (NFL) and apparently the league thought he was a “quack.” He also mentioned other vaccine falsehoods and concerns, sprinkling some Martin Luther King Jr. quotes into his conspiracy-theory-laden rant.
The Pat McAfee fiasco has shown Rodgers to be a conspiracy theorist and one of the NFL’s most vocal anti-vaccine figures. This is less than ideal for one of the league’s most marketable players.
His anti-vaccine positions have already negatively impacted his team on the field. Because of his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, he was unable to play in his team's matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Packers were forced to start backup quarterback Jordan Love. Love, making his first career start, was unable to fill the void left by Rodgers.
Rodgers hurt his team.
The consequences of his anti-vaccine standpoint will also be felt off the field. His partnership with Wisconsin-based health-care organization Prevea Health came to an end just one day after his Pat McAfee appearance. It seems likely that other companies will also act to distance themselves from Rodgers and his anti-vaccine theories.
There have also been many questions about whether Rodgers was following the proper protocols set in place by the league. Unvaccinated players are required to follow strict guidelines, such as wearing masks indoors, which is something that Rodgers has not done on several instances. This has led to widespread complaints from teams across the league that the Packers have been treated differently with regards to COVID-19 protocols compared to other teams.
The league needs to take Rodgers’ disregard for COVID-19 protocol seriously, fines will not be enough. The Packers should lose serious draft capital as punishment, showing the world that the NFL takes the pandemic seriously and will not let players and organizations off the hook simply because they are marketable.
If the league cannot bring itself to punish Rodgers, its reputation will be tarnished even more. Actions must have consequences.