Monday, November 8, 2021

Coronavirus Update 11-8-2021: Let’s talk about Aaron Rogers

Last Wednesday, Aaron Rodgers, future Hall of Fame quarterback for the first-place Green Bay Packers, tested positive for Covid-19. This fact, in and of itself, might be newsworthy because of who he is, but in and of itself it's not earth-shattering. That is, it's not earth-shattering news until you couple it with the fact that: (1) it appears Rogers is not fully vaccinated against Covid-19; and (2) in August, when a reporter asked if he had received the Covid-19 vaccine, Rodgers said, "Yeah, I've been immunized."

"Immunized," in this case, however, appears to mean something very different than fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

How do we know Rodgers isn't fully vaccinated? Because he told us

The NFL has not mandated that players receive the Covid-19 vaccine. It has, however, established a strict set of protocols — which Rogers, in his online rant, called draconian and shame-based — for unvaccinated players to follow. Players that are not fully vaccinated, for example:

  • Must be Covid tested every single day.
  • Must wear masks at all times while in their team's facility, at the stadium on game days, and while traveling. During games, however, active players (those in uniform and eligible to play) who are unvaccinated can remain unmasked.
  • Must remain physically distant from others while in their team's facility.
  • Otherwise cannot gather in a group of more than three players, coaches, and other members of the football operations staff.
  • Must quarantine after a high-risk Covid exposure.
  • Must be physically distanced in the meal room and cannot eat with teammates.
  • Cannot leave the team hotel to eat in restaurants, and further cannot interact with anyone on the Team Traveling Party during team travel.
The NFL has the ability to fine Rogers at least $14,650 on his first offense, with a maximum fine of $50,000. It can also fine the Packers substantially more. For example, it previously fined New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders each $500,000 for Covid protocol violations, in addition to stripping them of late-round draft picks.

It certainly seems like Rogers violated at least some of these rules, not the least of which was misleading the NFL, and maybe the Packers organization, about his vaccination status. 

I've heard some pundits suggest that the NFL give Rogers a pass because of who he is, his status to the game, and his importance to the league and one of its marquee franchises. That's exactly, however, why Rogers shouldn't get a pass. It's the same excuse that businesses have used for years in justifying and allowing sexual harassment committed by executives and other key employees. Compliance starts at the top, and there should be no free passes. If the NFL wants its teams and their players to take its Covid protocols seriously, then it will treat Aaron Rogers no differently than it would treat Jack Fox (the punter for the last-place and winless Detroit Lions) under similar circumstances. Misconduct is misconduct, and it should be judged based on its degree of seriousness, not the identity of its perpetrator. Unfortunately for the city of Green Bay, the buck should stop at the top and with Aaron Rogers.

* Image by All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons