National Sports

Aaron Rodgers is entitled to stay unvaccinated. He’s not entitled to lie about it.

That human smoothie Aaron Rodgers could have just owned it. Everyone should respect his decision to try homeopathy over a coronavirus vaccine. No one can respect him for being deceitful about it. The great leadership researcher Brene Brown has said, quoting from a 12-step meeting, “Candor is kind.” Its opposite, indirectness, is not kind. It’s devious.

Good luck to Rodgers rolling this one back. He will now be known as a guy who is slicker than his TV hair, who thought he was unique, too much so to follow rules, and more precious than anyone in the room. May he make a speedy return to the Green Bay Packers with no symptoms, but as for sympathy, that should be diverted to people who shared spaces with him when he was unmasked, who now have to sit around and wonder whether they brought something home because he was too coy with the coronavirus.

Lord knows Rodgers is inventive with the football, but of all the dodging, narcissistic, contrived moves. “Yeah, I’m immunized,” he said, so artificially, when asked in the preseason whether he was vaccinated. That was a lie by omission. And not just a single lie but a daily willful deception along with a weirdly callous charade. On multiple occasions he went into postgame news conferences - which tend to be closely packed, fetid affairs - unmasked. And there should be some queries about the steam and sauna and rehab rooms, too.

Obviously, it’s Rodgers’s choice whether to get vaxxed, and there are plenty of defensible reasons not to - and he should be able to hold his beliefs without being publicly demeaned. But what Rodgers did was demeaning to others. He also had a choice about whether to be forthright about his status or be duplicitous. He chose the second option and apparently went around unmasked to make it convincing. Rodgers betrayed another belief with those actions - or, rather, a lack of belief. He does not believe that we all have to share some sacrifices in getting through this wretched minor-keys measure of history. Only you do. Not him. Your pandemic is not his concern. He is indifferent to it.

A word about Rodgers’s right to his own body. Athletes work their hearts out to attain a physical sensitivity the rest of us generally fail to comprehend, and they are commodified and used to an extent we fail to comprehend, too, and they rightfully believe their limbs are not our property, yours or mine. Rodgers is smart if he questions or even distrusts conventional NFL-issued medical treatment and advice, which has wrecked whole generations of men. And let’s be honest, it’s a fact that at least some of the NFL’s well-intentioned protocols are what Harvard public health expert Joseph Allen has called “hygiene theater.” The jury is out, for instance, on plexiglass. But masking is indisputably the responsibility of anyone who declines a vaccine.

Rodgers is not entitled to freewheel on this matter. You want to go unvaxxed, you better profess it - and you better damn well be vigilant. He is a supposed leader, a player who takes up an ungodly amount of salary space on the roster, and he audibly sulked over the Packers’ decision to draft his possible successor Jordan Love. He has put his team in a terrible position, and now Love will get thrown in Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, a two-time Super Bowl team, with little notice.

Rodgers’s soft-speech act is not softening. It actually has a hard superficiality that leaves people feeling deflected. If he deflected any of his coaches or teammates the way he has the public, you can bet the Packers have peaked at 7-1.

How does a quarterback make people believe in him? Not just by throwing it on the run. Trust in a leader is established by authenticity and self-accountability. The renowned personality profiler and leadership assessment expert Robert Hogan has said that the most surprising thing he has learned in his research is that 75% of leaders alienate people with the way they communicate yet hardly realize their effect. Among the mistakes they make are, “Lying to others and thinking they don’t see the lies.” Asked to sum up the primary quality a leader needs, Hogan led off his response with: “Keep your word. Everything after that pales by comparison.”

When Packers Coach Matt LaFleur was asked whether Rodgers calling himself “immunized” was “misleading to fans,” LaFleur also deflected. “That’s a great question for Aaron. I’m not going to comment on it,” he said.

Good luck getting a candid answer from Rodgers.

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