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Amid growing list of demands, ESPN analyst applauds Aaron Rodgers as champion for ‘player empowerment’

By Jesse Pantuosco,

2023-03-15

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Aaron Rodgers has all of our attention, effectively hijacking the sport for the third time in as many years. A day after ESPN alum Trey Wingo (now of Caesars) said his trade to the Jets was as good as done, Rodgers has moved the goal posts once again, hoping to ease his transition to the Big Apple by bringing his pals Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Marcedes Lewis along for the ride. It’s the latest infuriating wrinkle in what has been an endless cat-and-mouse game, one that—God willing—will end with his announcement Wednesday on The Pat McAfee Show .

It’s a cruel trick to play, especially when Rodgers could (and very likely will) retire in a year anyway. Rodgers has taken a decidedly Machiavellian approach (the irony being that he isn’t even a free agent), exhausting all resources in securing the best outcome for his career and legacy. Some might call that a shakedown. Others, however, would commend Rodgers for changing the power dynamic, providing a useful blueprint for players looking to maximize their worth. Former NFL defensive end Marcus Spears would fall into the latter category, acknowledging Rodgers as the new face of “player empowerment.”

"I can't sit here at this desk as a player and talk about player empowerment, and not applaud what Aaron Rodgers is trying to do,” Spears opined on NFL Live . “It would be an oxymoron for me to come on and say, ‘Well why the hell would he want Marcedes Lewis and Randall Cobb?’ But [Dan Orlovsky], you made a great point, like some familiarity going into a new situation after all of that time and looking out for other guys.”

The player empowerment movement is an important one, fighting against owners who horde their ungodly wealth, profiting off the backs of labor like Rodgers. This topic was explored at great length in the wake of Damar Hamlin’s on-field tragedy, with many noting the uncertainty faced by players on nonguaranteed, rookie contracts (not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands of former players denied disability and other benefits for injuries suffered playing a violent sport that was all too happy to discard them the moment they could replace them with someone younger and cheaper). Still, framing Rodgers (who, and it bears repeating, is UNDER CONTRACT) as some sort of champion for player rights is probably a stretch. Rodgers may view himself as that, a sacrificial lamb for the player empowerment cause, but even if that were true, holding multiple teams hostage while using your supposed “friends” as leverage in negotiations doesn’t seem particularly selfless or altruistic.

“The dynamic of the NFL and locker rooms are, all guys ain’t going to like the guy. And some guys are going to be his friend until the end and they’re going to ride with him,” Spears argued, making the case that allowing Rodgers to bring a convoy of his best buddies will ultimately help the Jets in implementing their new offense. “I got to applaud him for trying to do that.”

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