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So What Did Aaron Rodgers Actually Say About Being Vaccinated?

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 24-21. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Aaron Rodgers told reporters, "Yeah, I've been immunized” in response to a question about his vaccination status, everyone naturally assumed that meant he had been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine—you know, the vaccine that protects against COVID, which most people understand you're talking about when you ask someone if they're vaccinated. Headlines read: "Aaron Rodgers Is Vaccinated Against Covid-19" and "Vaccinated Aaron Rodgers: NFL’s COVID-19 situation ‘continue to evolve as we get into the season'."

But today, it appears that Rodgers chose his words very carefully. After news broke that Rodgers tested positive for COVID, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo reported that Rodgers is unvaccinated. This means he must miss at least 10 days. He will be out this week’s game at Kansas City and be eligible to return Nov. 13 at the earliest, the day before Green Bay hosts the Seahawks. So it is extremely worth our time to go back and look at what Rodgers actually said about his vaccination status.

On August 26, two days before the Packers' final preseason game, Rodgers was asked about vaccination for the first time. The question came 17 minutes into his press conference, at the very end. 

Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette: “Aaron, I know you say you like to learn as many things as you can and hang in any conversation. Are you vaccinated and what is your stance on vaccinations?” 

Rodgers: “Yeah, I've been immunized. There is a lot of conversation around it. Around the league and a lot of guys who have made statements and not made statements, owners who have made statements. There are guys on the team that haven't been vaccinated. I think it's a personal decision. I am not going to judge those guys. There are guys who have been vaccinated that contracted COVID. It is an interesting issue that I think we are going to see play out over the entire season. I am not sure what they are going to do with the testing schedule. I know talking to JC [Tretter], the [NFL]PA talked about testing every single day for everybody. The league shut that down or didn't want to do that. I don’t know if that was financially incentivized or whatnot, but yeah it'll be interesting to see what happens, if we can get the protocols changed at some point. It is something that is moving, the protocols and the guidelines are changing day to day it seems.”

Rodgers was then asked a followup question that was based entirely on the (reasonable!) assumption from his previous answer that he in fact had received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jason Wilde, Wisconsin State Journal, ESPN Wisconsin, The Athletic: “Personal choice thing, about that. From a football perspective, Kirk Cousins is talking about how he is getting a hermetically sealed box or something in the quarterback room, the Patriots are frustrated with Cam Newton because he hasn’t [been vaccinated]. From a football and competitive standpoint, was that important, to make sure that you are most likely going to be available, and from an example setting standpoint?”

Rodgers: “No, It wasn't about that at all. I think, I like to learn about everything that I am doing and there was a lot of research that even went into that. But, guys have been, like I said there has been people that have tested positive. I think it is only vaccinated people here, so it is going to be interesting to see how things work moving forward. Obviously, there could be some issues with vaccinated people only testing every couple weeks and non-vaccinated testing every day. Last year I felt like, I think I read something about this, it was more difficult to pull a guy out who might have tested positive on game day. I don't think that will be the issue with somebody who is not vaccinated, but it is interesting to see how things are played out. There has been a lot of conversation around it and just with talking with JC, I think this is going to continue to evolve as we go into the season.”

Today, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported a little more on what Rodgers might have meant, though it raises more questions than it answers:

Rodgers petitioned the NFL to have an alternate treatment that he underwent before he returned to the Packers that would allow him to be considered the same as someone who received one of the approved vaccinations, sources told ESPN. After a lengthy back and forth, the league ruled that Rodgers would not get the same consideration and would be considered unvaccinated.

What was this alternate, non-vaccine treatment? Did Rodgers have COVID-19 over the offseason and consider himself immunized with antibodies? Why has Rodgers been doing his press conferences indoors and without a mask on, when, as Demovsky points out, other unvaccinated Packers players have done their media availabilities over Zoom? Why did Rodgers give an intentionally deceptive answer when asked if he had been vaccinated? 

We can argue semantics here all we want. If you discard common sense, that original reporter might have been asking about any old vaccine, say for measles. But he wasn't, and Rodgers knew that, and made sure to answer in a way that made everyone believe the answer to the question was yes when it was in fact no, and more specifically, he answered in a way that he knew would be misinterpreted so he'd stop getting asked questions about it. That's just lying, full stop, and it's backfired big-time: Rodgers has a whole bunch of questions to answer now.

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