Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) on the field after the game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been receiving even more scrutiny than normal of late this week thanks to a New York Times report that independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is considering him as a running mate. That’s led to further looks into his background, as you’d expect for a potential candidate for vice president of the United States. And that particularly exploded Wednesday night with a report from Pamela Brown and Jake Tapper of CNN that Rodgers has claimed at least twice that the December 2012 shooting at Newton, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people (including 20 children aged six or seven), was a “government inside job”:

Here’s more from that CNN piece, which includes Brown’s account of how Rodgers told her this at the Kentucky Derby in 2013:

CNN knows of two people with whom Rodgers has enthusiastically shared these stories, including with Pamela Brown, one of the journalists writing this piece.

Brown was covering the Kentucky Derby for CNN in 2013 when she was introduced to Rodgers, then with the Green Bay Packers, at a post-Derby party. Hearing that she was a journalist with CNN, Rodgers immediately began attacking the news media for covering up important stories. Rodgers brought up the tragic killing of 20 children and 6 adults by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claiming it was actually a government inside job and the media was intentionally ignoring it.

When Brown questioned him on the evidence to show this very real shooting was staged, Rodgers began sharing various theories that have been disproven numerous times.

…Brown recalls Rodgers asking her if she thought it was off that there were men in black in the woods by the school, falsely claiming those men were actually government operatives. Brown found the encounter disturbing.

The piece also includes another, unnamed, source relaying a similar story:

CNN has spoken to another person with a similar story. This person, to whom CNN has granted anonymity so as to avoid harassment, recalled that several years ago, Rodgers claimed, “Sandy Hook never happened…All those children never existed. They were all actors.”

When asked about the grieving parents, the source recalled Rodgers saying, “They’re all making it up. They’re all actors.”

Rodgers went on to delve into some of the darker caverns of the false conspiracy theory. This person found the encounter disturbing.

As mentioned in there, many of these theories on the (very real and well-documented) Sandy Hook shooting are similar to those repeatedly shared by radio show host Alex Jones. Jones has been ordered to pay $1.5 billion to the families of those impacted in various lawsuits (although he’ll likely pay much less; he proposed a $55 million settlement in December). Rodgers’ comments here were not on the air or necessarily for publication, so legal cases against him would be much more difficult. But his comments on this certainly are notable considering discussion of him as a vice-presidential candidate.

Rodgers’ comments here are also worth coverage considering the discussion of his paid appearances on ESPN. Rodgers is a regular guest (at least during the NFL season, but sometimes outside of that) on The Pat McAfee Show. ESPN pays McAfee to license that show, and McAfee pays his regular guests, with that reportedly leading to him sending Rodgers more than $1 million a year. And he reportedly even has a “deal” with Rodgers, suggesting something beyond one-off payments.

ESPN has been very hesitant to interfere with McAfee and Rodgers so far. And that remains true even after Rodgers used ESPN’s platforms for an apparent accusation that ABC host Jimmy Kimmel was a pedophile, with a suggestion that he was on “the [Jeffrey] Epstein list.” That led to threats of legal action from Kimmel, to a bit of an on-air walkback of “meant to be s*** talk jokes” from McAfee, and to McAfee later relaying that “the block got real hot” for him after some of Rodgers’ comments.

But there were no credible reports of ESPN actually pushing McAfee to move away from Rodgers after that or any other controversy to date. And he’s continued to keep featuring Rodgers. And that won’t necessarily change even as a result of this.

However, Sandy Hook conspiracy theories are perhaps something beyond what Rodgers has shared publicly so far. For one, the theories from Jones in particular have led to actual demonstratable impacts for those affected, which was a key factor in the lawsuit rulings against him. Those rulings matter too; there’s precedent of fiscal compensation being ordered as a result of Sandy Hook claims, something that hasn’t yet been seen with many other conspiracy theories. And it should be noted as well that Newtown is less than 40 miles from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, CT, and the shootings there had notable impacts on many in the ESPN community.

For what it’s worth, Rodgers is currently on an ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica with Buffalo Bills’ safety Jordan Poyer, as per Poyer’s Instagram. Brown and Tapper include that “Rodgers, through one of his agents, declined to comment to CNN.” We’ll see if he does address this CNN report at some point.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.