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Opinion: Aaron Rodgers isn't a victim of 'woke mob.' He's dangerously, and willfully, misinformed.

Nancy Armour

Whoo boy. Imagine what Aaron Rodgers would have spit out if he wasn’t such a “critical thinker.”

The reigning MVP of the NFL, and one of the league’s most popular and prominent players, hit almost every anti-vaxx talking point, conspiracy theory and Facebook meme there is Friday in trying to justify why he isn’t vaccinated and why he lied about it.

Rodgers went to the safe space that is the Pat McAfee Show, and in a rambling 45-minute diatribe  claimed to have an allergy to one of the ingredients in the mRNA vaccines. Said he was worried about Johnson & Johnson because of the possibility of blood clots – which have only occurred in women, and a miniscule amount, at that. Expressed fears about the impact on his ability to have children, despite actual science showing it’s being unvaccinated that poses the risk.

He said he was taking Ivermectin. Had consulted that noted scientist, UFC charlatan Joe Rogan. And to complete his aggrieved, anti-vaxxer-conspiracy theorist bingo card, Rodgers said he was a victim of “cancel culture.”

“I’m in the crosshairs of the 'woke mob' right now," he said.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

No, Aaron, you’re not a victim. You’re misinformed. Dangerously, and willfully, so.

The NFL might have been looking for every out not to punish Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, but he left them little choice choice with Friday's airing of grievances that the quarterback no doubt believes displayed his superior intelligence.

Rodgers is not only one of the best players in the league – at 7-1, the Packers are tied for the NFL’s best record and would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs – he’s one of the most visible, his State Farm ads on what seem like an endless loop this fall. I can only imagine NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watching in horror as one of the poster boys for his beloved “shield” revealed himself to be the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, prattling on about the truths he’s discovered on the internet.

It’s one thing for Tom Brady to not eat strawberries and push his TB12 line of supplements. Rodgers is going to get somebody killed.

The vaccines that Rodgers disparaged went through rigorous scrutiny during their development, and have since been proven to be safe, effective and our best defense against a disease that has killed more than 750,000 Americans – including the father of Packers running back Aaron Jones. The “remedies” he promoted instead are, largely, junk science, and Rodgers acknowledged they were treated as such when he presented them to the NFL.

“They thought I was a quack,” Rodgers said.

Well, yes.  

The NFL can’t punish Rodgers for his thoughts or even his words, outrageous as they might be. But it can punish him for breaking the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Asked why he hasn’t worn a mask for indoor interviews, as is required, Rodgers said it “makes absolutely no sense to me” because news media members are vaccinated and masked. That alone shows a complete ignorance of the science. As well as a disregard for the health and safety of others.

But, for the NFL's purposes, ignoring the rule wasn't Rodgers' choice to make. These protocols were bargained with the NFL Players Association and, as a union member, Rodgers is subject to them. If he doesn’t want to follow them, he is free to find employment elsewhere.

If he wants to continue playing in the NFL, however, then Goodell must send the message that no one, not even a three-time MVP and future Hall of Famer, is above the rules. Otherwise, the NFL might as well scrap the protocols altogether, because you can’t have one set of rules for Rodgers and another for everyone else.

The pandemic has revealed a lot of sad truths about our society. There are many of us who are selfish, unwilling to make even the slightest sacrifice for the greater good. Facts have somehow become open to debate. People who once would have trusted the work of scientists and medical professionals now follow the advice of podcast hosts.

And a beloved quarterback, once considered as smart and charming as he is talented, is now someone to be pitied, one more lost soul deluded by misinformation.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.