Aaron Rodgers on The Pat McAfee Show

Pat McAfee has been learning what a double-edged sword fame can be, especially when your fame comes from putting on a daily show that goes out to millions of viewers.

The former Indianapolis Colts punter traded in his cleats for a microphone and has rocketed his way up the sports media ladder to arguably become the new face of ESPN.

With that comes a lot of money, success, access, and acclaim. However, it also comes with accountability for your platform as well as what you and your guests say. The boisterous host has admitted he was caught off guard by the amount of criticism he’s received.

While ESPN has to be happy with the audience that McAfee is bringing in, he’s already faced enough criticism to warrant public defenses from some of his coworkers.

There’s no aspect of McAfee’s offerings that generates more consternation than his show’s weekly paid appearances by Aaron Rodgers. The former NFL MVP infamously began his heel turn from a “thinking man’s quarterback” into an anti-vax kn0w-it-all on The Pat McAfee Show where he was afforded the space to say whatever he wanted without fear of pushback, even if the information he was offering was, at best, misguided, and at worst, harmful.

McAfee, Rodgers, and their critics did that dance for a while as the quarterback would appear Tuesdays to talk some football, call out the “woke mob” or deride “cancel culture,” potentially share some dubious scientific thoughts, and do it all again the following week. It wasn’t a good thing, but it was palatable because McAfee’s show, for all its success, was still on the fringe.

The ESPN deal changed that equation. Now, when Rodgers appears on the show and mocks Dr. Anthony Fauci or calls for a public vaccine debate between NFL players, he’s doing it on one of the biggest cable channels in the nation. Even though Pat McAfee and his show’s crew are not ESPN employees, the two entities are one and the same once the show hits the airwaves.

Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel, who knows McAfee from his Colts days, offered up some scathing thoughts on the arrangement in a column published Wednesday. The former CBS Sports writer slammed Rodgers for using McAfee’s show as a way to make America “less safe.”

“Every Tuesday, Aaron Rodgers emerges from his rathole and looks around smugly, enjoying the smell of his own (breath), and says something really, really stupid about vaccines,” writes Doyel. “And because we live in this cult of fame, liking and believing and even electing people only because they’re rich or famous, people believe Rodgers. So he’s out there, every Tuesday, saying something that makes us less safe.”

Doyel says that McAfee shares the blame by being an “accomplice” to Rodgers, even though he believes the host doesn’t agree with all of the free-thinking that the New York Jets quarterback is doing.

“Unlike Rodgers and people of his ilk, people who think they’re the smartest guy in the room, McAfee is the smartest guy in the room,” writes Doyel. “He also was born with a second serving of empathy. He’s a good man with a good heart, Pat McAfee. He understands vaccines are the only reason the war is over, the only reason the good guys won.

“For some reason, though, he gives Aaron Rodgers a few minutes every week to say whatever he wants, and Rodgers wants to spout disproven anti-vaxxer nonsense and dangerous conspiracy theories. Why does McAfee do it? Why does ESPN let him?”

Doyel also noted the hypocrisy from ESPN’s side, considering they ensured that Sage Steele wouldn’t be able to share similar thoughts about COVID and vaccines on-air, but let Rodgers’ anti-vax commentary slide.

Doyel did reach out to McAfee to ask for his comment on the piece. The College GameDay co-host texted back “No thank you Gregg. Good luck with your article. Hope all is well. Cheers.”

Given that he thought Andrew Marchand was a “rat” for reporting on his and Rodgers’ financial relationship, we can only imagine what McAfee will have to say about Doyel on Thursday’s show.

[Indy Star]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.