Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went full anti-vaxxer during a bonkers diatribe on Friday, comparing his plight to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and attempting to quote the late civil rights icon in an effort to justify his refusal to get vaccinated.
A firestorm erupted this week when Rodgers tested positive for COVID and it subsequently emerged that he was not vaccinated despite responding, “Yeah, I have been immunized,” when a journalist asked in August if he’d been vaccinated.
Appearing Friday on former NFL player and occasional pro-wrestler Pat McAfee’s YouTube show, Rodgers complained that he is “in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now” but insisted he “didn’t lie” about being vaccinated and didn’t mislead anyone with his “immunized” comment.
“At the time, my plan was to say that I’ve been immunized,” Rogers said. “It wasn’t some sort of ruse or lie, it was the truth. Had there been a follow up to my statement that I’ve been immunized, I would have responded with this. I would’ve said, ‘Look, I’m not some sort of anti-vax flat-earther, I am somebody who is a critical thinker, you guys know me, I march to the beat of my own drum, I believe strongly in bodily autonomy.’”
Rodgers, who will make $33.5 million this year with the Packers, said he would’ve explained to reporters that he has an allergy to an ingredient in two of the COVID vaccines so he decided to forgo them in favor of a pseudoscientific homeopathic remedy he believes “raise[d] his antibody levels.”
He declined to name the specific protocol, saying, “I’m just going to keep it between my doctors and myself, but it was a way to stimulate my immune system to create a defense against COVID.”
There is no evidence that homeopathic treatments—which are not vaccines—offer any actual protection against the coronavirus—or any virus at all, for that matter.
In a lengthy rant about vaccines, COVID research, and NFL protocols, Rodgers spouted reams of misinformation about the vaccine’s side effects and on the effectiveness of face masks and other measures.
Despite boasting about how much medical research he does, he said he’d received medical advice from podcast host Joe Rogan and has been taking ivermectin, which is not a proven treatment for COVID.
“Why do people hate ivermectin? Not just because Trump championed it, but because it’s a cheap generic, and you can’t make any money off of it,” he said.
He slammed the Packers organization for having “sent in this stooge early in training camp to shame us for being 19th in the league in vaccination rate,” before falsely claiming that there is “a lot to natural immunity.”
He then floated a widely debunked conspiracy theory as one of the reasons behind his decision to be unvaccinated, claiming he was worried about the possibility of the COVID vaccines causing him to become sterile. (They don’t, but COVID itself can cause issues with fertility, according to experts.)
“You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense,” Rogers said, in the process misquoting MLK, who wrote in a 1963 letter from the Birmingham, Alabama jail, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
There is no “law” requiring NFL players to get vaccinated, nor is there a league-wide vaccine mandate. There are, however, COVID protocols that all unvaccinated players must follow.
The league is now investigating whether Rodgers has violated those guidelines, which include wearing masks at all times while in team facilities, however he claimed Friday that the league and his teammates always knew he was unvaccinated.
“What about ‘My body, my choice?’” Rodgers said. “What about making the best decision for my circumstance? This idea that it’s the pandemic of the unvaccinated, it’s just a total lie.”
This, of course, is not a lie: The unvaccinated are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than the vaccinated, according to a recent CDC study.
“If the vaccine is so great, then how come people are still getting COVID and spreading COVID?” Rodgers went on, again significantly misstating the facts. While low levels of the virus have been found in vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections, those who have received their shots are far less likely to be contagious and transmit COVID to others.
“I’m a non-vaxxed person, so the right is gonna champion me, and the left is gonna cancel me, but the whole time, I don’t give a shit about either of them,” he said.
Rodgers’ reps and a Packers spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday.