Double standards: how race impacts consequences for athletes

Aaron Rodgers decided to set the sports world on fire on Friday when he made his regular appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show,” talking about his positive COVID-19 test and his decision to not get vaccinated. The three-time NFL Most Valuable Player and former Jeopardy guest host shared his thoughts on vaccinations and his reasoning for telling the media he was immunized back in August despite never receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

To put it simply, Rodgers is completely in the wrong and what he said should not be receiving as much attention as it is, but this is 2021, and any chance the media has to make a headline they will grab and run. 

Rodgers said that he believes the NFL forcing unvaccinated players to wear masks is “shame-based,” and that he thinks there is “no science behind that policy.” He said this despite studies done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that show masks are one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

Rodgers also said he’s been taking Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine, despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning against using either to treat the virus. At one point, he compared himself to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., restating one of his most famous quotes, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Rodgers was again in the wrong, as Dr. King was not referring to disobeying COVID-19 guidelines that he might disagree with.

There were many other parts of the Rodgers interview that were false and alarming, but perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this entire situation is that there are people who are going to listen to him because of who he is. So many people look up to Aaron Rodgers, specifically kids between the ages of 8-17, and this flawed and inappropriate rhetoric is being absorbed into their minds. Whatever your stance is on vaccinations, you cannot argue with scientific fact. Rodgers, along with myself and many others, respect anyone’s decision to not get a vaccine, but spreading lies and misinformation to a young, juvenile audience is wrong and an exploitation of his platform. 

Rodgers is also a beneficiary of a long corrupt history of sports media favoring white players. Though Rodgers has been criticized by some media platforms, you have to wonder why these journalists and media personalities are not keeping the same energy towards him as they did with other athletes.

Kyrie Irving has been victimized for his stance on COVID-19 vaccines, despite following all the rules and not once debating or combating the fact that vaccines work. Irving has kept relatively silent since the NBA season began, yet sports media outlets such as ESPN and Fox Sports still paint him as a villain.

Colin Kaepernick was completely blacklisted by the National Football League for kneeling during the national anthem. He was thrown out of the NFL for believing in something that actually has data and evidence to back up — police brutality and systemic racism. For years, Kaepernick was painted by the media as the enemy of the NFL, as someone who was just an “attention seeker.” 

I would sit here and say that Rodgers is too talented to be kicked out of the NFL, but the reality is that Rodgers is a moneymaker in a billion-dollar industry, and if there is anything history can teach us, it is that the NFL would do almost anything to maintain a profit. 

Rodgers will likely take the field next Sunday for the Green Bay Packers, start every remaining game for the Packers and in a few weeks many media platforms will be on to the next big issue. As much as the NFL will try to make their audience forget this whole situation happened, it is vital that we use this as a learning experience to stop running with every opportunity for a headline and stop ignoring the potential dangers of what someone says just because they are famous. The last thing we need is more people like Aaron Rodgers, people who reject science for their own personal benefit.

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