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There, the league can see photos of Rodgers boarding the team's charter flight for away games. On the quarterback's Instagram account, there's Rodgers boarding, walking next to coach Matt LaFleur. On the Packers' Instagram account is a nice shot of a handsome Rodgers strolling toward the charter flight like he's on a modeling shoot. It's a really pretty picture.
Photos of Rodgers boarding the team's charter flight have been posted almost every week of the season. Rodgers would post, then the Packers would follow. The photos are significant because they show proof of two things.
First, they show a massive violation of one of the NFL's most important COVID policies: Unvaccinated players are prohibited from traveling on team charters and must travel to road games separately.
It's obvious why the league has this rule. An unvaccinated player poses a greater threat to people while in the confined space of an aircraft. In this case, those people are Rodgers' teammates and coaches (and by extension, the family and friends of those players and coaches). Unless Rodgers was behind a force field, sat in the bathroom for the flight or was encased in carbonite, it was a flagrant rules violation. Not just by Rodgers, but the team. The Packers knew he was unvaccinated but still, arrogantly, allowed him to travel with the team.
The photos are important for another reason. They are a perfect documentation of what privilege looks like.
This is why the NFL must punish Rodgers and the Packers, the way it did other players who don't have Rodgers' stardom.
This was important even before Rodgers' bizarre, infuriating and disgraceful appearance on the "Pat McAfee Show." Now it's even more vital since it's clear his arrogance and obvious belief that he's untouchable created an environment of entitlement. Look at his attitude. Look at those photos.
Some of Rodgers' other actions truly give the league no choice. On McAfee's show, Rodgers likely lied, again, when he claimed an NFL doctor told him a vaccinated person couldn't transmit or get COVID.
The NFL pushed back, releasing a statement saying: "No doctor from the league or the joint NFL-NFLPA infectious disease consultants communicated with the player. If they had, they certainly would have never said anything like that."
Also, in a demonstrative show of arrogance, Rodgers said he didn't like the league's rules about wearing a mask at press conferences, so he decided not to follow them.
Rodgers, even when it comes to a deadly virus, feels he can do whatever he wants.
The protocols are useless if a player or team decides not to follow them. This might be particularly true with the Packers. My guess is the team is genuinely terrified of Rodgers and let him roll however he wanted.
The Packers were probably more scared of Rodgers than they were of the virus.
Only the power of the NFL can corral that solar-system-sized ego of Rodgers. The Packers were likely afraid to tell him he couldn't travel with the team, so it's up to the NFL to make sure he knows who runs the sport.
The NFL has sent this message before. It has the power to fine a franchise or dock draft picks. That's what it did to the New Orleans Saints last year for violating COVID rules, fining them $700,000 and taking a sixth-round pick.
The Las Vegas Raiders last year were fined $800,000 after the league found multiple violations, and they also lost a sixth-round pick (the league later reinstated the pick after the Raiders appealed).
Those are fairly significant fines, and it shows the league takes this seriously.
If the NFL doesn't punish the Packers and Rodgers, despite clear evidence of multiple violations, it will look like it's taking it easy on him because he's Aaron Rodgers.
This is why it must do something. To let him know he has to follow the rules, too, no matter how popular or talented he is, and because without protocols, you could quickly face an out-of-control outbreak.
You could lose the season ... or worse.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers thinks he's untouchable. NFL must prove he's not.