Just about everything that has happened with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the past few days encapsulates some of the larger problems the country is having in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, news broke that the future Hall-of-Famer and offseason headline-maker had tested positive for COVID-19. Initially, sports fans and pundits were concerned for Rodgers’ health and what the diagnosis meant for the team.
That changed when news surfaced that Rodgers wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, despite telling reporters in August that he was “immunized.” Rodgers also didn’t follow NFL protocol for unvaccinated players, who must submit to additional testing for the virus and wear masks when they’re not on the field. Turns out the quarterback was lobbying the league to treat him as vaccinated because of some vague “alternative” treatment Rodgers believed was just as good. The NFL shot that request down.
There are so many problems here, it’s hard to know where to start, but the most egregious thing is that Rodgers betrayed the trust of teammates, opposing players, the media and fans. For the entire season, he’s been mingling with all of the above without taking the public health precautions mandated by his employer. He not only broke the rules, but put his and others’ health in danger, with those in close proximity to him likely unaware of that in most cases.
Whether Rodgers lied is more a matter of semantics. If he believed he was “immunized” through his offseason treatment, as he said in that August news conference, maybe he wasn’t outright lying. But he knew he hadn’t been vaccinated and he knew he was, at the very least, misleading people. This is a hit to his credibility.
It’s likely the NFL made mistakes, too, for Rodgers to have played eight games in the regular season without repercussions from the league. According to Sports Illustrated, the NFL and the Packers knew as early as July that Rodgers wasn’t vaccinated and his alternative treatment was bunk. How many more players in the league might be pulling something similar?
This is all analogous to the greater problem the United States has seen during this 19-month pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 750,000 Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide. Some people don’t trust the science behind vaccines. Nor do they trust the government. Whether right or wrong, that’s the case as it exists. And the government has made mistakes along the way, which would normally be expected as part of the process in adapting to something new and dangerous, but it only takes the slightest misstep these days to sow distrust and doubt.
There are workplace mandates for vaccines at many businesses, and most also have alternatives, like testing and masks for those who don’t want to get vaccinated. But it’s not always easy to ensure the rules are followed, and, in some instances, people will try to work around the system.
What’s most disappointing about the Rodgers case is that it shows there are still plenty of people who just don’t get why it matters that they take precautions if they’re not going to get vaccinated and that it’s not OK to be dishonest about it. It doesn’t seem that’s a message that is going to hit home anytime soon.