Opinion: State Farm is not a good neighbor, putting others at risk by supporting Aaron Rodgers' lies

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Today, State Farm failed to repudiate and indeed endorsed and validated the behavior of Green Bay Packers quarterback and company pitchman Aaron Rodgers.

Like a good neighbor? Not so much. This neighbor lies and puts others at risk with those lies, spreads misinformation and crackpot theories about a global pandemic and is against a vaccine that saves lives. Frankly, it sounds like it’s time to move to a new neighborhood.

What an interesting position for an insurance company to take, to not come out passionately for science, health and safety, but instead to equivocate with what apparently is a calculated business decision to support a man being lambasted by not only health care experts and officials but fellow iconic athletes from Terry Bradshaw to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Bradshaw: “I’d give Aaron Rodgers some advice. It would have been nice if he’d have just come to the Naval Academy and learned how to be honest, learned not to lie, because that’s what you did, Aaron, you lied to everyone. … We’ve got players that pretty much only think about themselves, and I’m extremely disappointed in the actions of Aaron Rodgers.”

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not play Sunday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not play Sunday after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Abdul-Jabbar: Rodgers “damaged professional sports. … Instead of consulting immunologists, he consulted anti-vaxxer and podcast host Joe Rogan, who also contracted the virus. If he ever requires open-heart surgery, will he hand the scalpel to romance writers because they know about matters of the heart?”

State Farm: He’s our guy.

The decision to go soft on Rodgers can only be described as State Farm’s singular focus on its bottom line, hoping it doesn’t make the anti-vax, flat-earth folks mad enough to cancel their policies while hoping everyone else isn’t paying attention.

If the company truly cared about, say, the health and well-being of society at large, it would have done what Prevea Health, a health care company in Wisconsin, did Saturday, repudiating Rodgers by ending their relationship.

State Farm has shown itself to be a far less courageous and principled company, for to keep Rodgers in the fold is to endorse him and his actions, even as State Farm spokeswoman Gina Morss-Fischer told USA TODAY Sports Monday morning in an email: “We don’t support some of the statements that he has made, but we respect his right to have his own personal point of view.”

Morss-Fischer continued by saying the company’s “customers, employees, agents and brand ambassadors come from all walks of life, with differing viewpoints on many issues” – as if an anti-vaccination crackpot strategy to fight COVID-19 should be given as much credence as the advice and research of the world’s best medical and health officials.

I wouldn’t have thought an insurance company that has to pay out when people get sick and die of diseases like COVID-19 would stretch that far for a flawed “both sides” argument. But these are the times in which we live, when even an institution like State Farm is so afraid to simply do what’s right.

That said, something just might be up. Apex Marketing Group reported that only 1.5% of State Farm ads had Rodgers in them Sunday, down from 25% of State Farm ads the two previous Sundays.

Having bungled its Monday morning statement, State Farm does have an easy way out moving forward. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who already has a contract with State Farm, is 12 years younger than Rodgers and announced in April that he was fully vaccinated to help protect his newborn daughter.

Back in August 2020, when asked about his support for Black Lives Matter and voting rights, Mahomes said, “I’m worried about doing what’s right for humanity and making sure all people feel equal.”

Now that’s a winning message for a 21st-century American brand. Add in Bradshaw, who himself just unveiled a new State Farm commercial, and there appear to be plenty of options for the company to extricate itself from the mess it is in.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: State Farm puts others at risk by supporting Aaron Rodgers' lies