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Aaron Rodgers’s smart guy image takes a hit

This post was originally published in SIDEbar, gpublicity’s newsletter.
If we learned one thing during the last week it’s the difference between the words “vaccinate” and “immunize.”

When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told media in August that he was vaccinated against COVID, his eyes veered downward, and he said he was “immunized.” To me, it felt like he put words on a skewer and turned them with purpose. When he followed that and said he wouldn’t criticize teammates who chose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, however, I thought like many of you that he’s a smart guy, so of course, he got the shot.

Well, not smart enough to know when to zip it. Rodgers committed PR crimes and is paying for it in the public eye.

We know what followed. Rodgers tested positive for COVID (he says he’s doing well) and was outed for not being vaccinated. Since then he’s become a punchline on everything from Saturday Night Live and late-night monologues, to Howard Stern and of course, sports talk. He blamed the media or a leak by the NFL for sharing his vaccination status, but I did my own research and deducted that if a player is announced at the outset to be away at least 10 days and didn’t sprain anything, he’s COVID positive, close contact with someone who is, and unvaccinated (see your 2021 NFL rulebook).

Public sentiment immediately tipped against Rodgers, so he decided to speak for himself. The problem is that he talked 44 minutes too long. He made an unscheduled stop at the Pat McAfee Show where he does a weekly Tuesday hit, but as author Molly Ivins would say, he defied the First Law of Holes: when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

Let me be clear. He dug a cave.

It remains to be seen if Rodgers’ rant against NFL’s COVID policies (which were collectively agreed upon with the player’s union) and detailing a “holistic” treatment will lead him to further PR hits (he’s already lost one endorsement). I conducted two unscientific Twitter polls that asked whether his selfishness would cost the MVP QB public relations points. Results in both were overwhelming, yes. Many say he lied.  I think he stretched the truth like a slingshot, and it snapped back in his face.

Had I met with Rodgers before the McAfee Show, I would have suggested a few things:

• Apologize for making an irresponsible decision that affected the health and status of your team.
• If you have an allergy to mRNA vaccines (as he claimed), say what it is, that you made a personal decision because of it, and thank all for understanding.
• Stay away from anti-vax rhetoric.”
• If you even think about invoking MLK Junior’s name where it doesn’t belong (it does not here), change your thought channel immediately.

Instead, Rodgers criticized almost everyone except himself for putting himself above his team and their families to which he was more likely to spread COVID.

Like Rodgers, I believe my body, my choice in every situation, but if it puts others that I care about in harm’s way, it’s no longer about me. It should not have been about Rodgers, either. If he was hell-bent on not getting the shot, he should have said so in August. Be a grownup, own the decision and move on. Accept that criticism will likely follow. After all, the history of big-time sports is that if you win, all will likely be swept aside. Instead, the only good Rodgers did was for McAfee’s ratings. For himself, he may as well still be digging.

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