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Aaron Rodgers lashes out against NFL, ‘woke mob’ in defense of vaccination status

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke publicly Friday for the first time since he tested positive for the coronavirus. (Darryl Webb/AP)
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Decrying the “woke mob,” “cancel culture” and what he described as a “witch hunt” against him, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers vigorously defended his decision not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Friday, lashing out at the NFL’s coronavirus protocols and saying they “were not based on science but on a more shame-based environment.”

Rodgers was revealed to have tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, and he will miss Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He cannot rejoin the Packers until Nov. 13, the day before their Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Rodgers said that he experienced symptoms of covid-19 and “didn’t feel great” earlier this week but was feeling better Friday.

In August, Rodgers was told he was considered unvaccinated under protocols developed by the league and the NFL Players Association after he raised an issue regarding his vaccination classification.

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Rodgers responded to a reporter’s question in August about his vaccination status by saying he was “immunized.” At the start of a nearly 20-minute opening statement Friday during an appearance that lasted nearly an hour, Rodgers said he didn’t lie about his status.

“It wasn’t some sort of ruse or a lie,” he said, appearing to read from prepared remarks. “Had there been a follow-up to my statement that I’ve been immunized, I would have … said: ‘Look, I’m not some sort of anti-vax flat-Earther. I’m somebody who’s a critical thinker.’ You guys know me. I march to the beat of my own drum.

“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. Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. And for me, it involved a lot of study in the offseason. … I put a lot of time and energy researching this and met with a lot of people to get the most information about the vaccines before I made my decision.”

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss the NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 7. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images/Reuters)

Rodgers said he could not get the Moderna or Pfizer shots because he has an allergy to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines made by those companies. Rodgers did not identify the specific allergy.

His only option, he said, was the vaccine created by Johnson & Johnson, but he “had heard of multiple people who had had adverse events around getting the J&J … physical abnormalities around getting the J&J shot. And then, in mid-April, the J&J shot got pulled for clotting issues. So the J&J shot was not even an option at that point.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine went back on the market within days because regulators determined its benefits outweigh its risks.

After “talking to a lot of medical individuals and professionals,” Rodgers said, he “found an immunization protocol that he could go through to best protect myself” that didn’t involve getting one of the three available vaccines. He said later that he also had consulted with podcaster Joe Rogan, his “now good friend” who said he treated his own covid bout with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic that the Food and Drug Administration has said is not an effective treatment for the disease. Rodgers said he also had taken ivermectin, which can only be obtained with a prescription.

“I’m thankful for people like Joe stepping up and using his voice,” Rodgers said.

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Rodgers said he petitioned the Packers and the NFL during the preseason to accept this alternate protocol — he “gathered over 500 pages of research on the efficacy of immunizations,” he said — but said he realized he would not win his argument when one of the NFL’s doctors told him “it was impossible for a vaccinated person to get covid or spread covid … which we know now that that information is totally false.” Rodgers later decried that the league did not offer any opportunity to consider “alternative medicines.”

According to a person familiar with the league’s handling of the matter, no doctor for the NFL or any of the infectious-disease consultants utilized by the league and the NFL Players Association communicated with Rodgers during the process. In August, according to that person, a member of the Packers’ medical staff inquired to the NFLPA on Rodgers’s behalf whether an alternative homeopathic treatment could lead to a player being regarded as the equivalent of vaccinated under the protocols.

The NFLPA shared the Packers’ request, along with materials provided by Rodgers, to Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, and the infectious-disease consultants. A review concluded there was insufficient scientific data to support the petition, that person said, and the NFLPA indicated that it would inform Rodgers of the decision.

Unvaccinated NFL players face stricter restrictions compared with vaccinated players and are tested for the coronavirus daily, and Rodgers said Friday that he had been following those rules and that the Packers knew he was not vaccinated. He said his decision not to take one of the accepted vaccinations “was what’s best for my body. … My medical team advised me that the danger of me having an adverse event was greater than the risk of getting covid and recovering. So I made a decision in the best interest of my body.”

Rodgers added that he was worried about the vaccines’ effect on his chances to father children, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that there is no evidence that coronavirus vaccines cause fertility problems.

Regarding the NFL’s coronavirus policies, Rodgers said, “they were not based on science at all, they’re based purely on trying to out and shame people” and making unvaccinated people “feel like the most dangerous people in society.” He questioned why the league forces people to wear masks around vaccinated people and why unvaccinated people need to be tested every day when vaccinated people can spread the virus as well.

“The great MLK said, ‘You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense,’ ” Rodgers said, paraphrasing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rogers lashed out at reporters who he said “were trying to shame and out and cancel all us unvaccinated people, call us selfish: ‘You’re selfish for making a decision that’s in the best interest of your body.’ … I go back to two questions for this woke mob: Number one, if the vaccine is so great, then how come so many people are getting covid and spreading covid and unfortunately dying of covid? … For the media out there taking shots at me: Like, you don’t know my story. Now you do. So quit lying about it.”

The NFL said Thursday that it, along with the NFLPA, would review the case to determine whether any protocol violations occurred. The NFL would consider fines for the Packers and Rodgers if protocol violations are established, but Rodgers would not face the possibility of suspension, a person with knowledge of the matter said Thursday night. Rodgers must remain in isolation for 10 days and can rejoin the Packers at that point if he is symptom-free.

Mark Maske contributed to this report.

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