Opinion: Aaron Rodgers has COVID. He lied about being vaccinated, and being a team player

At least Kirk Cousins, Cole Beasley and the NFL’s other anti-science gurus had the decency to be transparent.

Aaron Rodgers must have thought he was so clever, saying he was “immunized” when asked, directly, if he’d been vaccinated against COVID-19. But the Green Bay Packers quarterback isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, his “immunized” comment and the “research” he did revealed to be nothing more than smokescreen and snake oil with Wednesday’s announcement that he has tested positive for COVID and reporting that he is not vaccinated.

Worse, the guy who loves to preach about the brotherhood of the locker room and the greater responsibility Packers players in particular have to the team they represent, has been exposed as a fraud.

“The G that’s on our helmet and on our jersey travels with you,” Rodgers said Thursday night, recounting what he’d told his teammates as they headed to their mini-bye after upsetting the Arizona Cardinals.

“Represent the team the right way.”

How is lying – let’s call what Rodgers did for what it is – about being vaccinated against a disease that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide, almost 750,000 in the United States alone, representing the team the right way? How is exposing friends and teammates to COVID, as he might have done over the weekend, showing care for the well-being of those around him?

And how is not being available for what is arguably one of Green Bay’s biggest games this season, at Kansas City on Sunday, when the Packers were already short-handed, being the team leader that Rodgers supposedly prides himself on being?

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 24-10. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 24-10. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

When Rodgers was asked Aug. 26 about being vaccinated, he called it a “personal decision.” No. A personal decision is going ahead and having that fourth piece of pizza. Or spending money you really don’t have. Or not cutting your hair for a year to pull off a desired Halloween costume.

When your “personal decision” has ramifications for those around you, however, it ceases to be personal. And, make no mistake, Rodgers’ decision to not get vaccinated, and then to lie about it, has ramifications for pretty much everyone around him.

There is Sunday’s game, of course, when Jordan Love will get his first NFL start in one of the league’s loudest stadiums. The NFL said in a statement Wednesday that it is on individual teams to enforce COVID protocols at their facilities, and that it would be "reviewing the matter" with the Packers.

Running back Aaron Jones and defensive tackle Kenny Clark were put in the position Wednesday of having to defend Rodgers. The majority of questions coach Matt LaFleur got were about Rodgers and whether the Packers have been skirting COVID protocols.

“That’s a great question for Aaron. I’m not going to comment on it,” LaFleur said when asked if he thought Rodgers had misrepresented his vaccination status.

Yet Rodgers was strangely silent, forcing his coach and teammates to answer for him. That’s not leadership, it’s cowardice.

Rodgers was asked, directly, in August if he was vaccinated. In a follow-up question, he was asked if wanting to set an example for his teammates or fears of not being available had played a role in his decision.

Rodgers had the chance to correct the assumption that he’d been vaccinated, and he didn’t.

“It wasn’t about that at all,” he said at the time. “I like to learn about everything that I am doing and there was a lot of research that even went into that.”

From where, a cereal box?

If Rodgers truly believes in, say, a homeopathic remedy, then own that. Explain why he believes it’s preferable to one of the three vaccines recognized by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Enlighten us all as to what he trusts more than the advice of the world’s most renowned scientific experts and medical professionals, who say vaccination provides the best defense against COVID-19.

Or maybe Rodgers, who has built a Hall of Fame career out of criticism of him, simply didn’t want to take the heat. He knew he’d be criticized like Cousins, Beasley and other players who have resisted vaccines, particularly those who’ve spouted nonsense in their defense, and he didn’t want to deal with it. Especially after an ugly off-season when he was so unhappy with the Packers front office that he contemplated retirement.

So he lied, thinking he could evade scrutiny as he does so many linebackers and defensive ends.

But this isn't a game.

Rodgers’ teammates might have known he wasn’t vaccinated, but others who interacted with him didn’t. Thought just the opposite, in fact, because of what Rodgers said in August and how he’s behaved since then.

Leaving that assumption uncorrected was both irresponsible and selfish. He put himself and others at risk, and deserves every bit of the criticism he once tried to avoid.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has COVID after lying about being vaccinated