Aaron Rodgers lashes out over COVID-19 criticism

Sports

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pumps his fist after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NewsNation Now) — Packers QB Aaron Rodgers spoke for the first time Friday afternoon since testing positive for COVID-19, claiming that he took alternative treatments for COVID-19 because he was allergic to ingredients in the mRNA vaccines.

“I’m not some sort of anti-vax flat-earther,” Rodgers said on SiriusXM’s “Pat McAfee Show.” “I am somebody who is a critical thinker.”

Rodgers, who has been tested daily as part of NFL protocols for the unvaccinated, came up positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. The quarterback said he didn’t feel well on Thursday but was much better on Friday.

“Big thanks to everyone that reached out, checked on me the last couple days,” Rodgers said.

Back in late August when Rodgers was asked about his vaccination status, he said: “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.” News of Rodgers testing positive for COVID-19 and being unvaccinated made his word choice controversial, especially since the star quarterback was seen holding mask-free press conferences in club facilities, which is against the rules agreed upon by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Rodgers appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show” Friday afternoon to explain his vaccination status and what the last few days were like for him after testing positive for COVID-19.

Rodgers started Friday’s McAfee interview by saying, “I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now, so before my final nail gets put in my cancel-culture casket, I think I’d like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself right now.”

Rodgers said he did his own research about vaccines in the offseason, and met with individuals in the medical field.

“It was pretty easy in the beginning to eliminate two of them”, Rodgers said of the available vaccines. “I have an allergy to an ingredient that’s in the mRNA vaccines (from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).”

Rodgers said he was wary of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, mentioning how it was “pulled in mid-April for clotting issues,” referencing how it was temporarily paused after there were rare reports of increased risk for thrombosis in adult women younger than the age of 50. In April, the CDC and FDA resumed recommendation of the vaccine, saying that the benefits outweighed the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

Rodgers said he continued to talk to medical professionals as he looked into other alternatives that could protect him and his teammates from the virus.

“I found that there was an immunization protocol that I could go to, to best protect myself and my teammates, and it was a long-term protocol that involved multiple months,” Rodgers explained. “I’m very proud of the research that went into that.”

Rodgers explained that the NFL was “fully aware” of the situation when he returned to the Packers this summer. He then petitioned the NFL to accept his immunization status.

When talking about the protocols placed by the league for unvaccinated and vaccinated players, Rodgers said: “In my opinion, they weren’t based on science. They were more based in a shame-based environment to try and get as many guys vaccinated as possible so the league looks better to the rest of the world.”

When the NFL responded to Aaron Rodgers’ petition, they told Rodgers he would be considered an unvaccinated player.

Rodgers then went on to appeal, which was a multiweek process. He asked for time to gather information, which he said amounted to 500 pages of research. Rodgers also had conversations with the NFL about his appeal that he characterized as “good sharing,” but there was one conversation that stuck out, he said.

“One of the main docs said, ‘It’s impossible for a vaccinated person to get COVID or spread COVID.’ At that point, I knew I was definitely not going to win an appeal. It was very shortly after that denied,” Rodgers said.

The quarterback then questioned the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine because of documented breakthrough cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that such cases are expected because, while the vaccines aren’t 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 cases, they do effectively protect people from serious illness and death.

An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May found that virtually all COVID-19 deaths are now in people who haven’t been vaccinated.

While breakthrough cases may become more common as the percentage of vaccinated people in the country grows, the CDC emphasizes that the risk of infection among unvaccinated people is still much greater.

“Studies so far show that vaccinated people are eight times less likely to be infected and 25 times less likely to experience hospitalization or death,” according to the CDC website. “Vaccines remain effective in protecting most people from COVID-19 infection and its complications.”

Rodgers then went on to explain the decision not to get vaccinated.

“That’s what I did. I made the decision that was in my best interest.”

Rodgers also told McAfee he would have concerns about potential fertility issues had he taken one of the vaccines.

“Next great chapter in my life, I believe, is being a father,” said Rodgers, adding that he was not aware of any long-term studies regarding sterility and fertility.

“Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody,” Rodgers said.

In July, however, three doctors who specialize in reproductive health vouched for the safety of vaccinations for couples who want to have a baby and urged people to seek out their doctors or nurse practitioners with any questions.

“I can understand that people are scared, people are nervous,” said Dr. Stephanie Broadwell of Sanford Health Fargo, one of the reproductive health experts. “I think sometimes there can be information that can be helpful and some that can be somewhat misleading. I think it’s just really hard to digest all the information that is out there and stories that are filtering through that maybe even come from trusted sources.”

There was a lot of controversy surrounding Rodgers not wearing a mask during his in-person pressers at the podiums with the media. Rodgers went on to explain his thoughts on the NFL rules and protocols for unvaccinated players.

“Some of the rules to me are not based in science at all and purely to shame people. Like needing to wear a mask at a podium when every person in the room is vaccinated and wearing a mask. It makes no sense to me. If you got vaccinated to protect yourself from a virus that I don’t have as an unvaccinated individual — then why are you worried about anything that I can give you?” said Rodgers. “I have followed every single protocol to a T. Minus that one that I just mentioned that makes no sense to me.”

Rodgers explained his daily routine as an unvaccinated individual, which includes: COVID-19 testing as early as 5 a.m. during noon games at home; testing in the morning every day and waiting in the car for 30-40 minutes to receive results; wearing a mask every day in the facility; physically distancing from everybody else; not leaving the hotel during road games; not eating with teammates; working out off to the side in the weight room while wearing a mask; not using the sauna and steam room; and wearing a yellow wrist band at all times to announce that he’s unvaccinated.

Rodgers went on to discuss his problems with COVID-19, and recounted his own personal recollection of the early pandemic, in which he claimed that “the left” didn’t trust vaccines until Joe Biden won the presidency.

“Then what happened? Biden wins and everything flips,” he said.

With Aaron Rodgers testing positive for COVID-19, he doesn’t have to test again for the next 90 days.

When the 46-minute interview was wrapping up, Rodgers said, “The situation that I’m in should be a conversation, not a controversy.” He added: “If this was the flu, I’d be playing Sunday.”

Rodgers can’t rejoin the Packers for at least 10 days, missing Sunday’s game at Kansas City. Rodgers must also present a negative test to return to the team on Nov. 13.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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