Aaron Rodgers has spent the past 16 years building an intriguing reputation for himself, a public persona that could transcend sports and last a lifetime.
He decimated it in three days.
A lying, self-absorbed, conspiracy-theorist anti-vaxxer who put others at serious risk without their knowledge by appearing maskless for months is going to cross over from football and, say, host Jeopardy in a couple of years?
That seemed possible last week. It’s inconceivable now.
The very people who were going to embrace this smart and interesting 37-year-old into his 40s and beyond – well-educated, well-read, civic-minded, double or triple-vaccinated Americans – have to be disgusted by what they’ve heard about him and from him from Wednesday to Friday.
NFL fans are one thing; many of them will jump right back on the Rodgers bandwagon when he comes back from his COVID-19 break and presumably keeps winning.
But for the intelligent crowd he appeared to be angling for in his post-football years, the past three days have been a massive and unwelcome surprise. The Aaron Rodgers they thought they knew, the Aaron Rodgers they liked so much, is gone. He has been replaced by a Joe Rogan-loving crackpot.
Rodgers is – er, was – one of those rare athletes who was going to slide so easily into NFL retirement. The possibilities were endless. He would be a State Farm pitchman for life. He could join the Mannings on air. He could team up with Tom Brady just about anywhere, doing anything.
That’s all in doubt now that we know just how devious and cowardly this man is. Not only did he not get the COVID-19 vaccine while implying that he did, he didn’t have the courage to tell people he was unvaccinated. He probably was afraid of the reaction, worried how it would affect the future that he had so carefully crafted for himself.
So instead of owning up to his behavior Friday, he lashed out like a petulant child on the Pat McAfee Show:
“There’s a PC woke culture that exists, and there’s a cancel culture at the same time,” Rodgers said. “And it’s based on people’s own feelings of maybe personal miserability or distaste for their own situations or life, or maybe just enjoyment of holding other people down underneath their thumb.”
Or maybe, concern about a man who refuses to get vaccinated and then lies about it in the midst of a pandemic that has killed more than 750,000 Americans.
So now what? For nearly five hours, I was emailing a State Farm spokeswoman, asking at first what the company thought of Rodgers lying about his vaccination status and putting others at risk, then following up to ask what she thought of his dreadful, alternative-universe interview Friday.
I didn’t hear anything until she sent this:
“Here is what I can share on behalf of State Farm: It would be inappropriate for us to comment on Aaron’s vaccination status.”
Of course, that’s not what I asked.
“He represents your company,” I wrote back. “Are you okay with that today?”
I’m waiting for her reply.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers destroys legacy with crackpot COVID-19 vaccine theories