By Claire Tsanatelis
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is officially back on the field after being activated from the Reserve/Covid-19 list amidst media controversy over his vaccine skeptic comments. The 37-year-old athlete, who tested positive for the virus earlier this month, stirred quite the media backlash after revealing during his guest appearance on “The Pat McAfee” show that he is adamant about his decision to remain unvaccinated.
“I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something,” he said.
By describing the media as engaged in a witch hunt that wants to shame and denigrate everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated, Rodgers has been outspoken about individuals “doing what’s best for their own health” because health is not a “one-size-fits-all for everybody.”
His rationale for his personal health decisions is what triggered an onslaught from journalists, sports commentators, late-night television hosts, and scientists. As a result, he has been targeted as an object worthy of mockery and ridicule through the narrative concocted by pop culture and the entertainment industry.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers- photo by Flickr
“SNL” aired skits portraying the three-time MVP football player as an anti-vax moron, and the same condemnatory rhetoric has been echoed by popular media personalities, such as Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel.
American radio personality Howard Stern blasted Rodgers as a “liar” during a vulgarly articulated diatribe on his SiriusXM radio show, where he called for the Super Bowl champion to be kicked out of the NFL for initially misleading the public on his vaccination status back in August. Rodgers had already confirmed that everyone in the NFL, NFL Players Association, and the Green Bay Packers knew he wasn’t vaccinated, including some of the media who did have prior knowledge of this information but didn’t choose to harp on about it until the league later confirmed his diagnosis in November.
It turns out what he meant when he said he was “immunized” was that he received a homeopathy protocol, which is enough to make the media recoil because these health methods are not endorsed by the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.
Public figures appear to be militantly in defense of the Covid-19 vaccine and seethe at any individual’s opposition to taking the jab, whether that’s due to an allergy to one of the vax’s ingredients, concerns on long-term effects for such a newly developed vaccine created from ambitious technology, or a preference for using a less invasive and more traditional antidote to mitigate symptoms of the disease.
All of the above are applied to Rodgers’s case, in which he explained in a decent level of detail on “The Pat McAfee” show, but those comments weren’t allowed to make headlines in the mainstream media without a swarm of fact-checkers--reporters and doctors--attaching the misinformation label by supposedly debunking each concern vaccine skeptics like Rodgers still hold to this day.
Although this scientific “transgression” hasn’t been detrimental to Rodgers’s career, and one of the only Covid-related consequences he’s endured has been a measly little $14,650 fine for not diligently following the NFL’s strict Covid protocols, it could still be damning to his reputation in the public eye. Or at least for the large sector of the population that gathers all their information from ESPN and other cable news entities.
This ultimately raises the question of whether celebrities with ordinary education backgrounds should be permitted to publicly counter the narratives that already have an established consensus given by (bought and paid for) experts and professionals. Amid a public health crisis during an ongoing global pandemic, the nature of the situation is darker and more personal because people’s lives are at stake. That should explain the emotional upheaval relating to this subject matter.
If a high-profile star athlete like Aaron Rodgers can go off the grid and use his platform to spew what the powers-that-be deem as harmful “misinformation,” then thousands, if not millions of people may follow suit and believe words of an “entitled and misinformed quarterback” rather than our prestigious institutions that feed us all the information we’re allowed to know. Or at least that’s what they’re scared of.