For a guy who seems to dislike the “woke mob” and “PC culture” and proudly wears shirts that say “cancel Cancel Culture,” Aaron Rodgers sure does love a safe space.
Since last year, the Green Bay Packers quarterback has had a standing interview session on The Pat McAfee Show. On paper, it’s a great fit. The NFL quarterback gets to let loose with a group of former NFL players (Pat McAfee and A.J.Hawk) and talk about things beyond the previous weekend’s game.
McAfee has made a name for himself as a gregarious personality who can create an environment that makes guests feel like they’re hanging out with their bros, just shootin’ the shit. That McAfee’s show is insanely popular and very lucrative is a nice bonus to make it all feel like what you say still matters even if you’re just talking about your favorite books.
Things changed, however, when it was announced that Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on November 3. After having previously told reporters he was “immunized,” it was news to a lot of people that he had been playing while unvaccinated. That set off a firestorm of accusations against the quarterback who had entered the league’s health and safety protocols. In response, Rodgers broke a different kind of protocol and appeared on McAfee’s show that Friday, unleashing an infamous interview that changed the perception of the reigning NFL MVP for a lot of people, in one direction or the other.
Rodgers faced immense backlash from the interview but so did McAfee, who was accused by some, including us, of allowing Rodgers to offer up incorrect medical information without any challenge or attempt to correct it. McAfee initially pushed back on the criticism, saying that it should be understood that he’s not a reporter or the kind of host who is in a position to challenge someone like Rodgers. However, when Rodgers returned to the show for his usual Tuesday appearance, McAfee was noticeably more aggressive in his questions as a deflated Rodgers admitted he “misled some people about my status.”
Pat McAfee spent the last few days saying people shouldn't expect him to ask tough question but he's clearly shifting his strategy here, asking direct questions.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) November 9, 2021
As the weeks followed, Rodgers didn’t exactly back away from his opinions and Joe Rogan-inspired medical advice, but he seemed to shy away from bombastic rhetoric. However, the “COVID toe” drama that led to him misidentifying and admonishing a reporter and refusing to apologize for doing so stemmed from an appearance on McAfee’s show. Another appearance, in which Rodgers implied that some Green Bay Packers coaches were leaking info about him to the media, maintained his usual defiant demeanor but sidestepped specific complaints about the state of vaccines and NFL protocols.
That all changed last week when the Omicron variant took off across America, infecting people at an alarming rate. The sports world was impacted immediately as games were delayed or canceled outright due to a lack of players. While Omicron was reported to be less deadly than previous variants, the increased spread and ability to break through for vaccinated people caused alarms for medical professionals who encouraged people to stay vigilant against a virus that has led to over 800,000 deaths in America since the pandemic began.
Rodgers made his weekly appearance on McAfee’s show and used the platform to complain about “why society and the NFL hasn’t talked about legitimate treatment options and monoclonal antibodies are one of them.” Rodgers also cited ivermectin, which the FDA has said is not proven to treat COVID-19. Rodgers posited a straw man argument that “society” wasn’t willing to have conversations about alternative treatment methods, when in fact it had, but he didn’t like the answers he was getting.
McAfee and Hawk, meanwhile, didn’t push back on anything Rodgers was saying.
Rodgers returned this week and continued his “victory tour,” as if gloating about the fact that Omicron can infect vaccinated people is some kind of proof that scientists and medical professionals were wrong to proceed with caution. He launched into a screed about how if you can’t question science, then it’s propaganda, which is one of those things that sound smart on paper but is being used here to try to discredit peer-reviewed science that you disagree with. It’s especially misleading when he’s the same person who scoffs at the notion that anyone would question the medical advice he receives from Joe Rogan.
Rodgers also continued to trot out the notion that since vaccinated people can get COVID-19, that must mean that the vaccine doesn’t work or is not necessary, which runs counter to just about every medical professional’s advice out there. It also showcases a lack of empathy and compassion for people who have medical conditions or have high-risk health issues, not to mention people who are still dealing with the aftereffects of contracting COVID.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated people are both testing positive for Covid, just like Aaron Rodgers and I can both throw a football. https://t.co/jBgrujU4LB
— Elika Sadeghi (@elikasadeghi) December 28, 2021
Rodgers also launched into a ‘woe is me’ discussion about how he gets negative comments on Twitter from people who don’t have a lot of followers, which, y’know, join the club, buddy. He also bemoaned the lack of debate over COVID and vaccines, as if we haven’t been doing that for the last two years. Either Rodgers really checked out of the public discourse since 2020 or he just doesn’t like the end result of those many, many debates.
All the while, McAfee offered up the space for Rodgers to spread disinformation and instill a distrust in science that borders on negligence. And that’s why Rodgers keeps coming back. It’s also why Rodgers never seems to sit down with any other interviewer to share these views. Rodgers surely has been approached by other media members to do sit-down interviews or discuss his views. But it’s obvious that he chooses to only give McAfee’s show the platform because he knows that he’s going to be given the floor to say whatever he wants without any pushback whatsoever.
"This was a “meet the moment” event for McAfee and to simply shrug and offer Rodgers a platform without much pushback felt like he backed away from the opportunity for the sake of his relationship with the quarterback." https://t.co/5scE7MW9KJ pic.twitter.com/muuVAMoU78
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) November 9, 2021
Rodgers pushed McAfee around during the first vaccine-related discussion they had, essentially forcing the host of the show to cede the floor to him for extended periods. Last week, he cut McAfee off in annoyance when Joe Rogan came up and launched into a diatribe about alternative methods for treating COVID. He knows that he runs the show when he’s on it and he’s not going to get questioned in any serious way. It’s the ultimate ego check for a guy who has spent his entire life having his ego massaged.
The more it happens, however, the more this platform is revealing itself to people.
Pat McAfee is getting a massive pass for allowing Aaron Rodgers to spread disinformation and lies that could lead to people dying.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 28, 2021
If Aaron Rodgers is genuinely interested in having conversations with people who disagree with him, he might start by giving a one-on-one interview to anyone other than Pat pic.twitter.com/B4GGXDr3Mz
— David Gardner (@byDavidGardner) December 28, 2021
Science is questioned all the time. It's called peer reviews and tumor boards and review panels.
This is remarkably ignorant.
— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) December 28, 2021
McAfee pushed back on this notion by saying that he also gives a platform for people to come on and say that you should be vaccinated, as Charles Barkley said during an appearance a few weeks back.
Interesting take.. I see you’re a journalist.
You’re not picking & choosing what to report from my show in an attempt to mislead people are you? That’d be a style of misinformation right?
You were probably saving the world at the time but how come you didn’t cover this? https://t.co/hXLB2dBEMl pic.twitter.com/yjOR3ppWlh
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) December 28, 2021
That logic doesn’t hold a lot of weight, however. You don’t get points for having a guy on once to say everyone should get vaccinated if you’re also giving a weekly platform to a guy spreading disinformation and attempting to discredit science during a pandemic. This isn’t a gotta-hear-both-sides issue as much as people want to hide behind that. One side is trying to save lives and the other is mad that they’re being asked to think of others above themselves.
Rodgers seems like he’s the kind of guy who has been told “yes” his entire life. A star athlete who also seems to have a brain, it’s not hard to imagine he’s surrounded himself with agreeable people and encased himself in a protective bubble from the world. It’s why he gets so mad when literally anyone criticizes him even slightly. It’s why he doesn’t understand why people disagree with his opinions about science and medicine in the middle of a pandemic that is affecting the lives of millions of people. It doesn’t seem to have ever occurred to him that he might not have all the answers because, well, he’s always been told he has all the answers.
Rodgers literally referenced “freedom of speech” on Tuesday when complaining about people disagreeing with him. Imagine how divorced from the reality of actual consequences you have to be to equate people disagreeing with you with your Constitutional rights.
In Aaron’s mind, to not be agreed with 100% is to be canceled.
The idea that he’s not the smartest guy in the room is a foreign concept to a guy like Aaron Rodgers. But when he’s on The Pat McAfee Show, he is. At least, he’s treated like the smartest guy in the room and he’s given all the space he needs to not only feel it but act on it. And that’s the failing that McAfee doesn’t seem to see or want to admit.
It’s also why Rodgers doesn’t do sit-down interviews with anyone else. Because he knows those aren’t safe spaces. He knows he’ll have to account for the things he says and he doesn’t ever want to feel the need to do that.
Rodgers’ first appearance back on the show following his infamous interview gives us hope. McAfee would never admit it but he heard the criticism and adjusted accordingly. But that’s not good enough now. It’s not good enough to offer a platform to someone whose rhetoric could actively hurt people and then claim ignorance or be passive to your role in it.
McAfee seems like a genuinely decent person, in as much as you can assume that about anyone these days. And he’s right to assume that programs like his are first and foremost about entertainment. But that doesn’t absolve him of any requirements in this situation. If McAfee is seen as something of an heir apparent to the likes of Howard Stern, Dan Patrick, Dan Le Batard, Chris Russo, and other notable radio hosts, it’d be worth noting that all of them are capable of pushing back on guests or questioning the things guests say when the situation calls for it.
Until McAfee recognizes this, Rodgers is going to continue to run roughshod over him every Tuesday and it’s going to get people hurt. Besides, why would Aaron stop otherwise, The Pat McAfee Show is his safe space.