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Aaron Rodgers rebukes COVID-19 vaccine, the internet implodes

A collection of tweets archiving the digital fallout from the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback recent fiasco

By Jeff Ash

Green Bay City Pages illustration

There’s some amount of risk involved in covering Aaron Rodgers these days. Lord knows what you’re going to be exposed to.

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, the first big story. The Green Bay Packers quarterback had tested positive for COVID-19 and was out for the following Sunday’s game at Kansas City.

Later that day, a bigger story. When Rodgers said in August that he’d been “immunized” against COVID-19, it turned out that he didn’t mean “vaccinated.” Which of course led to many questions about who at 1265 Lombardi Ave. knew what, and when, and what if anything they did about it. If that sounds like Watergate, well, yeah. Scandalous.

Two days later, on Friday, Nov. 5, an even bigger story. Rodgers vented about vaccination for 46 minutes on former NFL punter Pat McAfee’s satellite radio show. Co-host A.J. Hawk sat there, seemingly equal parts annoyed, mortified and stifling laughter while listening to his former Packers teammate.

Tweeting live during Rodger’s first interview since news broke, ESPN Packers Reporter Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) said:
“So Rodgers has used the following words:
*Woke mob
*Cancel culture
*Bodily autonomy is a right
He said he’s taking Ivermectin, zinc and monoclonal treatments and has been talking with @joerogan. (These are just facts, not judgements from me).”

From there, the internet exploded.

Most of the following tweets came in real time that day, hours before a tsunami of lame jokes and memes on social media, a day before Rodgers was dropped by as a spokesperson for Prevea Health and lampooned in the “Saturday Night Live” open, and two days before Rodgers was roasted on the Sunday NFL preview shows.

USA Today Sports Columnist Nancy Armour (@nrarmour): “Oh for God’s sake. The NFL’s reigning MVP is the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving.”

The Capital Times Director of Marketing and Green Bay native Chelsey Dequaine-Jerabek (@chelseywisco): “By the groans and sounds my husband is making in the other room, it seems we have lost Aaron Rodgers who is openly saying some cray things about the pandemic. I am sad.”

USA Today Sports Race and Inequality Editor Mike Freeman (@mikefreemanNFL): “Aaron Rodgers sounds like an anti-vaxxer. Point blank.”

Andrew Brandt, the former Packers vice president who signed Rodgers to his first NFL contract, now a Villanova law professor and still a keen NFL observer (@AndrewBrandt): “I’ve known him 16 years, my comments reflect that. And I too believe in bodily autonomy and prioritizing health (although I’m vaxxed). But Aaron should have owned his decision, had the courage of his conviction to speak publicly rather than mislead from fear of public reprisal.”

The Nation Sports Editor Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports): “Yes this is a world class, 100% train wreck of an interview. But it’s Aaron’s quoting of MLK that is truly #chefskiss It’s like he’s playing asshat bingo.”

As Rodgers spoke his mind and Packers and NFL Twitter cringed, jokes rolled in.

Comedian Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky): “Aaron Rodgers didn’t get the Jeopardy gig but still managed to become a host.”

New York Times National Politics Reporter Astead (@AsteadWesley): “have we considered the possibility that Aaron rodgers is nicki minajs cousins friend.”

(Out of the loop on that one? Rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted this bit of misinformation in September: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”)

Then, there was anger.

Madison-based Trauma Intensive Care Nurse Kelsey Vandersteen (@nursekelsey): “Rodgers saying ‘if you’re a healthy person with a healthy immune system, go for it. Don’t get vaccinated. Trust your body.’ Hey asshole. I put many ‘healthy people’ with ‘healthy immune system’ in body bags who died brutal, painful, torturous deaths from COVID.”

Sports media weighed in, seeing two sides to the story.

San Francisco Chronicle Columnist Ann Killion (@annkillion): “Athletes don’t answer simple questions directly but are certainly happy to spread dangerous misinformation and expect us to transcribe it.”

ProFootballTalk Founder Mike Florio (@ProFootballTalk): “Attention Twitter customers: We do not want to cancel Aaron Rodgers. PFT has generated 14.4 million page views since Monday, thanks in large part to Rodgers. I hope he plays until he’s 60.”

Personally, I wondered out loud online: “Over/under on how many minutes Aaron Rodgers is booed at the next #Packers home game?”

The almost unanimous consensus? He won’t be booed. Guess we’ll see.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9 Rodgers returned to The Pat McAfee show. He apologized for his remarks and said he acknowledges he is a role model to a lot of people.

“I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading,” Rodgers said on-air. “To anybody who felt misled by those comments, I take full responsibility.”

That same day, Demovsky reported that the team was fined $300,000, while quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Allen Lazard were fined $14,650 apiece.

Through all of this back and forth, Brandt looked into his crystal ball: “And I have never wavered on this since March: Aaron would not be traded in 2021. Aaron will be traded in 2022.”

Guess we’ll see about that, too. Lord knows what else will have happened by the time you read this.

Jeff Ash is a Green Bay writer and researcher specializing in sharing local history on social media. He’s edited five Packers history books. He was an editor and writer at newspapers in Green Bay, Madison and Eau Claire for more than 37 years.

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