Four days after his initial comments following his positive COVID-19 test, Aaron Rodgers returned to “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback said he’s had time to reflect on his Friday comments and acknowledged how his characterization of being “immunized” in August could be perceived as misleading.
“I understand that people are suffering, and this has been a really difficult time for the last two years on so many people,” Rodgers said. “I think we all know individuals who have lost their lives personally, people who have lost their businesses, their livelihoods, their way of life has been altered completely, and I empathize with those things. And I also know how sports can be a connector and bring people together in times of adversity, and I do realize that I am a role model to a lot of people.
“So I just want to start off the show acknowledging that I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading. To anybody who felt misled by those comments, I take full responsibility for those comments. I’m excited about feeling better and I’m excited about moving forward and hopefully getting back with my team and getting back to doing what I do best, and that’s playing ball. It’s been tough to be away from it. I’ve been obviously dealing with the COVID and I feel like I’m on the other side of it thankfully, and thankful to still be able to have something to look forward to, hopefully.”
Rodgers said he isn’t worried about the negative opinion some have following his Friday comments, in which he explained his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19, decried “cancel culture” and said that he was in the “crosshairs of the woke mob.”
“I think first if you find your identity in yourself and you don’t find your identity in the opinions of others, then you don’t need that validation and that love from other people,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “You can get it from yourself. That’s not being selfish, that’s just learning in a healthy way (to) love yourself and respect yourself and believe in yourself. I definitely was tested, you know, by some of the comments that I heard and saw. I’m human. Stuff can definitely hurt your feelings.
“Look, I shared an opinion that is polarizing, I get it, and I misled some people about my status, which I’ve taken full responsibility of, those comments. But in the end, I have to stay true to who I am and what I’m about, and I stand behind the things that I said. I have a ton of empathy who have been going through the worst part of this pandemic, which has affected all of us in different ways, with so many people, like I’ve said, with lives that were lost, lives that were forever changed, and I have a ton of compassion, empathy for those people, and I’ve tried to help out as much as I can.
“The other stuff is so out of my control, and there’s going to be people that don’t like you and hate you for things you said or might not even understand what you said or know what you said — it might just (be) a headline — and that’s fine. I believe that people are entitled to their opinion and even it’s a thing that’s unfavorable of me. But I’m going to continue to try and be the best version of me moving forward and I’m excited about getting back on the field as soon as possible.”
The NFL is currently looking into COVID-19 protocol enforcement within the Packers organization. Rodgers has been seen throughout the season maskless during news conferences, which take place indoors at the Packers’ facilities.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that the league reiterated in its COVID-19 protocols that individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks at all times indoors.
“This includes while giving media interviews or participating in media briefings conducted indoors either at the club facility or at the stadium on game day,” per the league.
Rodgers missed the Packers’ 13-7 Week 9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs following his positive test. Second-year QB Jordan Love made his first-career start in Rodgers’ absence.
As an unvaccinated player, Rodgers has been required to quarantine for 10 days from the date of his positive test. The earliest he can return to the team facility is Saturday, the day before Green Bay hosts the Seattle Seahawks.
Rodgers said he expects to play this week but noted there is a “small possibility” he’s not cleared through protocol.
“As far as I know, it’s 10 days, and Saturday I can go into the facility and then I’ll be able to play after that,” Rodgers said. “I think there’s a possibility (I can’t play). But it’s a small possibility. I just believe there’s a health hurdle that I have to (clear), as far as like movement and sweating and getting into it and making sure that my body, especially heart, is fine with the physical exertion.”
The reigning NFL MVP added he has no desire to be the poster boy for his vaccination status.
The NFL has fined the Green Bay Packers organization, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard for violating COVID-19 protocols, the league said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. The fines come nearly a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and subsequently revealed he was not vaccinated after earlier stating he had been “immunized.”
“The Club was fully cooperative in the investigation into violations of the collectively bargained NFL-NFLPA protocols,” the NFL said Tuesday.
Rodgers and Lazard each received a $14,650 penalty for attending a Halloween party. According to the NFL’s protocols, unvaccinated players cannot gather outside of the club facility in a group of more than three players. The investigation did find that both players typically followed the league’s other protocols, with the exception of wearing masks during press conferences.
“There’s no argument that Aaron Rodgers should have been wearing a mask at press conferences,” the NFL said. “The league reviewed substantial video from club facility. While the review showed a few isolated instances of Rodgers and Allen Lazard failing to wear a mask in facility, they were substantially compliant otherwise. There was no widespread or systemic mask-wearing violations.”
The Packers organization faces a $300,000 fine because it was aware of the Halloween party after it happened and “did not discipline Rodgers or Lazard and failed to report their violations to the league,” the NFL said. And in other instances, including press conferences, the Packers “failed to strictly enforce the protocols,” according to the NFL.
The league said both the team and the two players were warned that future violations could result in “escalated discipline.”
“We respect the League’s findings and we recognize the importance of adherence to the COVID protocols to keep our team and organization safe and healthy,” Mark Murphy, the Packers’ president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to educate the team regarding the importance of the protocols and remain committed to operating within the protocols.”
When asked at a press conference in August if he had been vaccinated, Rodgers replied that he had been “immunized.
Last week, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, and, days later, admitted that he had not been inoculated. In an interview on “The Pat McAfee Show”, he said that he instead underwent a homeopathic “immunization protocol” supervised by a medical team. He also said he had taken an anti-parasite drug called ivermectin, which the CDC has repeatedly opposed as a COVID-19 treatment.
On Tuesday, Rodgers said he takes “full responsibility” for his misleading comments about his vaccination status.
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing, I get it. I misled some people about my status, which I take full responsibility of those comments,” he said Tuesday on the “The Pat McAfee Show,” where he first disclosed his vaccination status last week. “But in the end, I have to stay true to who I am and what I’m about. And I stand behind the things that I said.”
Zoe Christen Jones and Victoria Albert contributed reporting.
In September, when the White House announced its long-awaited plan to welcome vaccinated European travelers, the United States was consumed by a Covid-19 surge that far outpaced Europe’s.
At that point the US rate of new cases per capita dwarfed Europe’s by nearly three to one. While European governments were plotting their roadmaps towards normality, America was battling a rise in infections and warning of pressure on hospitals.
But by Monday, when the new rules came into effect and thousands of tourists jetted across the Atlantic to American cities, the two regions had experienced a dramatic reversal in fortunes.
Europe is now the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic once again; it overtook the US case count at the end of October and is now careering towards a difficult winter.
Infections are rising in most of the countries that make up the Schengen area, the 26-country bloc where entry rules to the US have been relaxed. Travelers from the United Kingdom and Ireland were also included in the American policy shift.
“We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence,” WHO regional director Hans Kluge said last week, warning that the pace of transmission across the region was of “grave concern.”
“According to one reliable projection, if we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million COVID-19 deaths in Europe and Central Asia by the first of February next year,” Kluge warned, adding that 43 of the 53 countries on his patch could also see high or extreme stress on hospital beds.
Europe’s current wave has not resulted in as high a death rate as the US’ summer spike. But it serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of the pandemic, experts said.
Thousands of gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, salons and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles were required this week to start asking customers for proof that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, under one of the nation’s strictest vaccination rules.
The law, which the City Council approved last month, allows people with medical conditions that preclude vaccination, or a sincerely held religious objection, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours.
Officials say that the law is meant to help revive a city that has been under varied levels of restriction for more than a year and a half, and that requiring almost everyone who enters an indoor public space to be vaccinated will help prevent a surge in cases as winter approaches.
“Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown,” Nury Martinez, the president of the Los Angeles City Council, said in a statement. “The goal of this mandate is to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”
“I’m an athlete, I’m not an activist,” Rodgers said. “So I’m going to get back to doing what I do best, and that’s playing ball. I shared my opinion. It wasn’t one that was come to frivolously. It involved a lot of study and what I felt was in my best interest for my body. But further comments, I’m going to keep between myself and my doctors. I don’t have any further comments about any of those things after this interview.”
Double-masking, staying at home nearly 24/7 and rarely seeing people beyond his wife are still the way of life for kidney transplant recipient Andrew Linder, even after many in the United States are living like the pandemic has ended.
Health officials are recommending third and even fourth shots to boost Covid-19 resistance for people with certain conditions, but that hasn’t eased the fears of some immunocompromised people.
Linder, 34, received the life-changing gift of a kidney from his wife, Emily, in September 2019. He will be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life to keep his body from rejecting the organ.
In March 2020, as Covid-19 cases started to shut down workplaces and cities, Emily moved in with her parents for months because she works with the homeless and people in the prison system and did not want to get her husband sick.
The coronavirus vaccines brought some hope for the Linders, who live in Akron, Ohio. Andrew Linder had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and later an additional dose and a booster. Hope quickly turned to heartbreak.
“I had no antibodies whatsoever. That was shocking and scary and sucky for sure,” Linder told CNN. “I almost feel just as unsafe or if not potentially a little bit more unsafe now than at the beginning of the pandemic, just for the fact that I could get it at this point in time.”
The pandemic isn’t over for many
Linder is one of many moderately to severely immunocompromised people trying to protect themselves as a number of people across the US are going back to some version of their normal lives.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 9 million people who live in the US, or about 3% of the population, are moderately to severely immunocompromised. That includes people in active treatment for cancers of the blood or for solid tumors, certain organ transplant and stem cell recipients, people with advanced or untreated HIV, and those who take high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune system.
A new study published by the CDC last week suggests people with compromised immune systems may need to receive three doses of a coronavirus vaccine and a booster shot to get as much protection afforded by two doses to those who are not immunocompromised. The effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19 hospitalization was 77% among immunocompromised adults versus 90% among immunocompetent adults.
For transplant recipients like Linder and some other members of the immunocompromised community, the research showed that vaccine effectiveness was lower than that.
CNN followed up with five immunocompromised people interviewed in March 2020. For some, like Linder, life really hasn’t changed much because of their lack of immunity. Others have gotten a sense of security after getting vaccinations and booster shots.
For Courtney Hodge, a single mom from outside Pittsburgh, living through the pandemic has brought her a new sense of clarity, and she said she’s trying to live with less fear.
Last year “made me reevaluate my entire life because you can die that quickly,” Hodge told CNN.