Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is very good at football. He’s probably going to be named the NFL’s MVP in a few weeks, an award he also won last year, and in 2014, and in 2011. This year’s been a little different, though, as his play on the field hasn’t been near as big of a story as his judgement off of it. Rodgers has for months now been pushing conspiracy theories, about Covid-19 and, most recently, the 2020 election. Team Trump is impressed.
Liz Harrington, the former president’s spokesperson, used comments Rodgers made last week to push the lie that the 2020 election was illegitimate during a Monday appearance on Steve Bannon’s podcast.
“The only good news is the American people know it,” Harrington said of the false idea that the election was rigged. “I mean, you had four years of them saying the 2016 election was stolen by Russia and you never had quarterbacks questioning President Trump’s legitimacy. You’ve got Aaron Rodgers just flat out calling it out and saying, ’81 million votes? Yeah, I guess. But it doesn’t certainly look like it.'”
Trump spokesperson thanks Aaron Rodgers for casting doubt on the 2020 election pic.twitter.com/sbE6uDv0FZ
— John Whitehouse+ (@existentialfish) January 24, 2022
It’s unclear which other quarterbacks are questioning the legitimacy of the election, if any are, but longtime Trump crush Tom Brady isn’t one of them. Brady mocked Trump’s election fraud claims while visiting President Biden at the White House following the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win last year. He declined to even show up to Trump’s White House after the Patriots won Super Bowls in 2017 and 2019 (his absence was part of a team-wide boycott in 2019).
Trump’s Team seems thrilled there’s a new Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback they can claim as their own.
Harrington’s nod to Rodgers was in reference to comments he made in a piece published Friday by ESPN. “When the president of the United States says, ‘This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ it’s because him and his constituents, which, I don’t know how there are any if you watch any of his attempts at public speaking, but I guess he got 81 million votes,” he said. “But when you say stuff like that, and then you have the CDC, which, how do you even trust them, but then they come out and talk about 75% of the COVID deaths have at least four comorbidities. And you still have this fake White House set saying that this is the pandemic of the unvaccinated, that’s not helping the conversation.”
The statistic Rodgers seems to be citing here comes from a Centers for Disease Control study which found that in a group of 1.2 million people who were fully vaccinated between Oct. 2020 and Dec. 2021, 36 died and of those 36, 78 percent had at least four comorbidities.
Rodgers mischaracterizing Covid data is what prompted the ESPN piece — generously tilted “The unfiltered year of Aaron Rodgers” — in the first place. The quarterback ruffled feathers by bashing the Packers before the season started, but his penchant for controversy transcended sports when he outed himself as an anti-vaxxer during a November appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. Fresh off testing positive for Covid, Rodgers cycled through a laundry list of MAGA talking points, whining that he’s in the “crosshairs of the woke mob,” praising Joe Rogan, and even quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. “You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules,” he said from his couch.
Rodgers added that he’s doing his “own research” about the virus, which is anti-vaxxer code for treating the word of quack doctors and conspiracy theorists as gospel while ignoring or mischaracterizing the work of infectious disease experts. It’s difficult to merely dabble in the world of conspiracy, where the slopes are slippery, and Rodgers is now casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election because he doesn’t think President Biden is a good public speaker — or, more likely, because he saw someone else make the same case.
Harrington’s comments are ironic considering the extent to which right-wing media has bashed athletes for speaking out about political issues. Trump has done so plenty, most notably in regard to NFL players who have kneeled in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem. “They’re all saying: ‘Oh, it has nothing to do with the flag. It’s the way we’ve been treated,’” Trump told Fox News in 2018. “In the meantime, they’re making $15 million a year. Look, I’m all for the athletes. I think it’s great. I love athletics. I love sports. But they shouldn’t get the politics involved.”