Aaron Rodgers could have sparked a meaningful COVID vaccine conversation ... but blew it

Aaron Rodgers had his chance. An open mic on a popular radio show just days after word broke that he tested positive for COVID-19 and it was revealed that he was, unexpectedly, unvaccinated.

Rodgers didn’t need to say anything. His decision was his decision, and as long as he is willing to deal with the consequences at work, then so be it.

Yet Rodgers wanted to explain why he’s unvaccinated. And while he repeatedly said, “I'm not telling somebody to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated," he clearly wanted to stick up for those who remain hesitant.

To do that in the best fashion would have required Rodgers to be the bigger person in this kerfuffle, not to mention a more considerate leader than we generally have in this country.

He just couldn't pull it off.

He certainly had plenty to say over the course of 20-plus minutes — plus follow-up questions — on "The Pat McAfee Show" on Friday.

How allergies meant the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines weren’t fits for him. How he considered Johnson & Johnson but paused when it was pulled for a stretch last spring.

How his commitment to holistic approaches to all health — including diet and fitness — played a role in his decision. How inconsistencies in promised effectiveness and historical actions of Big Pharma can weigh on some people.

Even further, he got into how he believed the NFL’s rules and protocols were designed to shame the unvaccinated and even bully those who didn’t have the job security of an MVP quarterback, which he didn’t think was fair.

Maybe you agree with him. Maybe you don’t. Either way, this was his shot; a smart, articulate guy with plenty to say and a platform on which to say it.

Aaron Rodgers appeared on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday, Nov. 5. (The Pat McAfee Show)
Aaron Rodgers appeared on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday. (The Pat McAfee Show)

He just couldn’t say it without falling into the trap of modern politics, where rather than trying to speak to or with someone with an alternate opinion, it’s best to use insults, name-calling and stereotyping, which just closes minds before a single point is made.

Rather than try to win a debate or change a mind, Rodgers went straight into the Cable Talk Show-ization of our country, sinking to the level of the very critics that upset him in the first place.

“I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now,” Rodgers said. “So before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself.”

Ugh. It was like he was going for obnoxious political debate bingo. Virtually everything he was trying to convey to his critics was lost after that opening line.

It’s not that he's necessarily wrong. Rodgers' definition of “woke” makes zero sense and seems to be just pandering, but a mob does have him in the crosshairs and it would probably like to cancel him. The screaming about Rodgers saying what he said was quick and loud.

Yet both sides of the political spectrum participate in “cancel culture.” And that’s the problem. Debate, hell, even polite discussion, in this country has almost no middle ground, no ability to sit back and listen to an opposing viewpoint and consider it with respect.

That’s where the money is, of course. Division pays; our team and your team. You either toe “our” line completely or you’re a traitor, no better than the worst of our enemies. Extremism, and playing to extremism, has become normal.

It’s just screaming. It’s just playground stupidity. It’s a made-up fuss, the predictable people applauding him and the predictable people expressing outrage. There was a time when people never discussed politics or religion in polite company. Now it’s all some do.

It’s unlikely a single person will choose to be vaccinated or remain unvaccinated because of Aaron Rodgers. The vaccines have been out for nearly a year. No one was waiting for the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers to weigh in.

The people shouting otherwise, pretending this is serious, know that. They are just playing the public as fools anyway.

Rodgers may have been at his best on Friday when he was expressing how the pressure to conform and the way anyone with doubts about vaccines are treated impacted him. There were times he was clearly heartfelt in what he was saying.

He was making it clear that the best way to persuade someone to get jabbed isn’t to call him or her an idiot. It isn’t to mock them. It isn’t to insult them.

Yet that’s what happens to people. Too little talking with them; too much talking down at them. It tends to make people tune out.

Yet by going the other way, Rodgers proved no better than those he was angry with. He went down the exact same path of name-calling and assigning motivations and playing to emotional supporters.

He was great when pleading for understanding and patience and the need for real conversations. But then he was soon ranting about “woke culture.”

It was just another spin of the circle. The same-old, same-old you can watch on cable every night.

Too bad it wasn’t better, too bad it didn’t spark real dialogue.

Instead it was no minds changed, just white noise.

Welcome to America.