January 18, 2011
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes) was under fire this weekend when a local news station showed a clip of him brushing past a cancer patient desperate for his autograph. But just as the criticism was intensifying, an unlikely source came to Rodgers' defense: the very woman he ignored, Jan Cavanaugh.
Before you rush to judgment, watch the video that started the firestorm:
This led to a bunch of self-serving hand-wringing in the media, particularly from NBC's Mike Florio, who wrote that Rodgers treated Cavanaugh like a "panhandler with leprosy" and insinuated that the quarterback was a bad person for ignoring the autograph request.
Cavanaugh heard comments like this and responded to the local ABC affiliate, WBAY. From an article on the station's website:
The video has drawn criticism but the only people Jan is critical of today are those creating the chatter.
"I am very unhappy with people making so much out of this, because this really isn't that big of a deal. It's up to the players to decide who they want to give an autograph to, and that's their prerogative."
Just a week earlier, Rodgers autographed Jan's pink jersey bearing the number 12 as the team departed for Philadelphia. A few years ago the now-star quarterback signed a number of things for her, too.
Not surprising that a woman fighting cancer with a positive outlook has a solid perspective on things.
The Florios of the world are correct when they say that NFL players owe their fame and riches to fans and, as a result, should be accommodating to them whenever possible. But to suggest that Aaron Rodgers needs to sign every single autograph for every person isn't a reasonable request.
Don't judge Rodgers based on this one incident. Are you perfect every second of every day? Would you want people forming opinions about you based on how you live every second of your life? Maybe he had just gotten into an argument with his girlfriend. Maybe he ate some bad sushi. Maybe he was late for the plane. There are plenty of reasons he could have brushed past Cavanaugh, all of which are more plausible than "he doesn't care about cancer patients."
When I first read about this incident, I immediately thought of a touching "Make-A-Wish" segment that aired on "SportsCenter" earlier this year. You know, the one where Rodgers went above and beyond to make sure that a 13-year-old heart transplant patient had the time of her life at Packers training camp. Strange that nobody who's ripping Rodgers is mentioning that clip this week.
The ESPN segment doesn't mean Rodgers is a great guy. But it's far more of an indication as to his character than a split-second incident at an airport.
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