It was not a red-letter day for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Though he led a late rally, many of his passes went wide, and the Packers were trounced by the Detroit Lions, giving that team just its second victory of the season.
But if Rodgers came up short on the field, he made up for it at the news conference afterward. Just two days after religious extremists killed at least 129 in Paris, Rodgers registered a complaint — about a fan who appeared to shout “Muslims suck” during a moment of silence.
“I think it’s important to do things like [the moment of silence]. We’re a connected world, you know — six degrees of separation,” Rodgers said after the game, as The Washington Post’s Des Bieler reported. “I must admit, though, I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made a comment that I thought was really inappropriate, during the moment of silence. It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today, as a world.”
As borders tighten in Europe and retaliatory airstrikes target the Islamic State in Raqqa, one might expect Rodgers’s comment to be met with brutal social media backlash.
Yet, on Twitter after the game, Rodgers emerged as a hero of sorts.
“So sick of all the political/religious talk these last couple days,” one Twitter user wrote. “It’s draining. God bless Aaron Rodgers for sticking up for what’s right.”
“Aaron Rodgers is a stand up guy,” wrote another.
“Rodgers couldn’t have handled it better,” the liberal blog Addicting Info wrote. “Rather than ignore the hatred, Rodgers faced it head on and pointed out why it’s not okay. The same kind of dehumanizing prejudice that leads to a person shamefully yelling ‘Muslims suck’ during a moment of silence also motivates extremists to rationalize killing innocents in the name of their religion, or cause, or ideology. The world doesn’t need more ‘us vs. them,’ despite how tempting it is to look for easy scapegoats during times of fear.”
The National Football League — the one that accepts Defense Department funds for its patriotic displays — is not a league always known for its tolerance. Indeed, even in the age of Tebowing, the league penalized Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah, a Muslim, for praying after a touchdown last year.
Faced with outrage, the NFL quickly retreated.
“Abdullah should not have been penalized,” Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. “Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”