The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion When did Dr. Aaron Rodgers, QB, acquire a PhD in epidemiology?

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during an Oct. 28 game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Placeholder while article actions load

After more than four decades on this earth, I should be wise enough to avoid idolizing any athletes. But, as a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, I have been an unabashed fan of Aaron Rodgers ever since he was the starting quarterback of the Golden Bears from 2003 to 2005. A three-time National Football League most valuable player and future Hall of Famer, he is one of the greatest QBs of all time.

His genius was on full display Sept. 26 in a game against my beloved San Francisco 49ers. With only 37 seconds left and no timeouts, Rodgers drove the Green Bay Packers into range for a field goal that won the game. My angst over the 49ers’ defeat was balanced by the sheer joy of watching Rodgers work his magic for the umpteenth time.

But the magic has now worn off. My football idol has shown that he has feet of clay — and a mind full of mush. A genius on the football field, Rodgers has revealed himself to be a pandemic ignoramus. A microscopic virus has now tackled him for the biggest loss of his storied career — and he has no one else to blame. He has done the impossible: sacked himself.

Last week, Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus. His absence on Sunday most likely cost his team the loss in a low-scoring game against the Kansas City Chiefs. There would have been no shame in that — if he had been vaccinated. But he wasn’t, even though he had previously insisted, “Yeah, I’m immunized.”

Follow Max Boot's opinionsFollow

Technically, perhaps, this wasn’t an outright lie because of Rodgers’s innovative theory that he can be “immunized” without either having had the disease or received the vaccine. But his response was definitely deceptive — and the deception was only heightened when he added: “There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated. I think it’s a personal decision. I’m not going to judge those guys.”

He gave no indication that he was one of “those guys” and acted as if he weren’t by often not wearing a mask in situations where NFL rules require unvaccinated players to be masked.

Sally Jenkins: Aaron Rodgers is entitled to stay unvaccinated. He’s not entitled to lie about it.

Facing an uproar over his inexcusable conduct, Rodgers appeared on SiriusXM’s “The Pat McAfee Show” on Friday to explain himself. He succeeded only in proving yet again the validity of the adage: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Rodgers tried to portray himself as a victim, complaining in Trump-like fashion that he was “in the crosshairs of the woke mob,” the target of a “witch hunt” and of “cancel culture.” The only thing missing was an attack on critical race theory.

He denied that he was “some sort of anti-vax flat-earther” before demonstrating he’s precisely that. He repeated the mindless anti-vaxxer talking points about the importance of “bodily autonomy” while ignoring the potentially fatal consequences of spreading a virus that has already killed more than 752,000 Americans.

Rodgers claimed to be a “critical thinker” who had done “a lot of study in the offseason” about vaccines and covid-19. When did Dr. Aaron Rodgers, QB, acquire a PhD in epidemiology? I’m assuming he doesn’t feel that Anthony S. Fauci is qualified to tell him when to check down to the outlet receiver during a broken play. That’s Rodgers’s area of expertise. Yet for some reason Rodgers feels qualified to second-guess the judgments that Fauci and countless other scientists have reached about their area of expertise.

While ignoring the collective wisdom of the medical community, Rodgers relies on the advice of Joe Rogan, a college dropout turned comedian, martial-arts fighter and podcaster. After failing to get vaccinated and contracting covid, Rogan admitted: “I am not a doctor. I am a f---ing moron … I am not a respected source of information even for me.”

This seems to be one of the seers to whom Rodgers turned for medical insights. He even parroted Rogan’s favorite talking point, based on a single Israeli study, that catching covid supposedly confers stronger immunity than getting vaccinated — provided, of course, that you survive.

Jerry Brewer: Aaron Rodgers, starting QB for the unvaccinated, is really just looking out for No. 12

Rodgers showed no awareness of a more recent study which found that the unvaccinated adults who had previously contracted covid were 5.49 times more likely to be infected than recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. It makes you think that perhaps he is not studying epidemiology as carefully as he studies game plans.

Rodgers is likely to make a rapid recovery from covid because he is in a relatively low-risk group and because he says he is taking monoclonal antibodies, an effective treatment, in addition to dubious folk remedies such as ivermectin, zinc and vitamin C. But his reputation may never recover. He has already lost a sponsorship. He has definitely lost this fan’s respect.

Now instead of cheering for Rodgers to again demonstrate his mastery on the gridiron, I’m rooting for the NFL to throw the book at him for his reckless and destructive conduct. He endangered not only his teammates but also any fans who might still be naive enough to view him as a role model.