Aaron Rodgers is guilty of a lot more than breaking NFL rules
As the NFL deliberated on whether to punish its three-time most valuable player , Aaron Rodgers, and the Green Bay Packers for flagrantly violating COVID-19 rules, the league needed to consider the terrible errors in judgment the quarterback committed.
But when Rodgers elected to defend himself spouting junk science, conspiracies and snake-oil remedies, he recklessly ignored his power as a football superstar to misinform millions of Americans hesitant about vaccination.
That's messing with people's lives.
“When you choose to do what Aaron Rodgers is doing, which is to use the (celebrity) platform to put out misinformation that could cause people to make bad decisions for themselves or their children, then you have done harm," Dr. Paul A. Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times .
Other NFL stars who declined vaccination, like receiver Cole Beasley of the Buffalo Bills and quarterbacks Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings and Carson Wentz of the Indianapolis Colts, largely stated their personal opposition and left it at that.
But not Rodgers, who also is a highly visible advertising pitchman for State Farm and Adidas . He not only needed to be different, he needed to be right, claiming he had 500 pages of research showing there were alternative ways of being immunized against COVID-19 besides the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations – the only three authorized in the United States.
The tragedy is that the nation is getting ever closer to ending this pandemic , and for reasons that have nothing to do with Rodgers' pseudo-science claims.
More than 80% of American adults have received at least one shot. Children ages 5 to 11 can now be vaccinated. New treatments for COVID-19 are on tap. Vaccine mandates, despite their controversy, are driving up immunization rates.
Even so, tens of millions of Americans remain hesitant or adamantly opposed to vaccination. Some even still believe that the disease is not a serious threat, despite more than 46.5 million confirmed cases in the USA and over 755,000 deaths . And now they have one of the nation's most celebrated athletes telling them it's OK to be so misguided.
That makes Rodgers guilty of more than just violating NFL rules.
Nonetheless, the NFL should still take into consideration more than just letter-of-the-law violations of failing to wear a mask while unvaccinated, or flying with players and staff on chartered aircraft.
The NFL should make clear that Rodgers' ego-driven rant, which threatens to stymie the nation’s progress on COVID-19, is wholly unacceptable.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers is guilty of a lot more than breaking NFL rules