Whicker: It’s important to protect Aaron Rodgers’ right to be wrong


The people who told LeBron James to stick to sports and to shut up and dribble have developed severe laryngitis when it comes to All-Pro quarterback and well-known epidemiologist Aaron Rodgers.

There is a major difference, of course. James is usually voicing his opinion on social justice, police brutality and voting rights. Some might take issue, as many of us did when he drew the line at protesting Chinese tyranny. But no teammate has had to visit the ICU because he was standing too close to James’ podium.

That hasn’t happened to any of the Green Bay Packers, either. But Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game with Kansas City because he tested positive for COVID-19 and did so after he vaguely told everyone he’d been “immunized.”

Had the Packers known he was head-faking them, they might have made different locker room arrangements.

In any event, he is endangering their chances of getting a playoff bye in the super-competitive NFC, and eventually depriving his mates of playoff money and glory.

And if he didn’t have to get vaxxed, why did they?

Prevea Health of Wisconsin reacted by ending its business relationship with Rodgers, and more of his mammoth slate of endorsement partners might follow.

The great irony here is that Jordan Love will quarterback the Packers in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

When the Packers traded up to draft Love in 2020, Rodgers went into a preschool-caliber snit and revived it during this past offseason, when he made clear he didn’t want to be a Packer anymore. Never mind that Rodgers was 35 when the Packers drafted Love, just as Brett Favre was 35 when they drafted Rodgers in 2005..

Eventually, Rodgers agreed to come back if the Packers reacquired Randall Cobb, voided his contract in 2023 and promised not to franchise him after this season.

Perhaps this will be Day One of the Love administration. This is his third season. Rodgers also had his baptism in his third season, and went 18 for 26 with a touchdown in a 37-27 loss to Dallas. The next year, he was starting.

So if Rodgers’ goal is to muffle the pain of his impending Packers divorce, he has succeeded admirably.

His reasons for passing up the shot have become volleyballs for medical experts to spike.

He said he was allergic. The CDC, at the beginning of the year, said 23 patients had allergic reactions out of nearly two million.

He ridiculed the idea of vaccination because some vaccinated people get COVID-19. That’s known as a “breakthrough” and is fairly common knowledge at this point.

He said there were no long-term studies about sterility, and he would like to become a father someday. Experts say COVID-19 is far more likely to cause sterility than the vaccination.

And he said he was “immunized” through homeopathic procedures, one of which was ivermectin. His apparent guru through this journey to wellness was Joe Rogan, the famous podcaster.

“Some of the protocols aren’t based on science at all,” Rodgers said.

I’ll take ‘Delta variant” for $400, Aaron.

Rodgers fell back on the “woke mob” and “cancel culture” slogans to answer the critics. Thus continues his odd mid-life fixation to make sure the lights are always shining on him, even though attention deficit isn’t often a problem for NFL quarterbacks.

Obviously, Rodgers has a right to say whatever he wants, and the rest of us have a right, if not a responsibility, to call him on it, since people do listen.

Rodgers also has the right to avoid the vaccination, and the NFL and the Packers have the right to bench him.

The danger is that more people will pass on the vaccines thanks to Rodgers’ voodoo advice.

Otherwise, his right to speak out is protected and entirely appropriate, just like LeBron’s. It’s just a matter of how hard we should listen.

Professional athletes and entertainers don’t live in the same rooms we do. An overwhelming majority of them will side with society’s One Percent because they’re part of it. But even before they were making the big money, they rarely identified with the working man.

They were blessed with unusual skill, and many of them received free college because of it, and they had the wherewithal and the time to refine it. Many of them naturally assume that everyone else can do the same thing, so let the strong survive.

Someday, Rodgers might channel his newfound opinions into something constructive and heartfelt. Until then, the world should be quite comfortable in telling him, “Quarterback, heal thyself.”

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