The vaccine dilemma in sport: Aaron Rodgers
By Alejandro Echeverria
November 29, 2021
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Having gone over the vaccine protocols and regulations for the NBA and NFL in my previous article in SBAJ’s issue IV, ( “Professional athletes face vaccine dilemma”), here is a prime example of the implications that these new rules have had.
What Went Wrong?
Green Bay Packers’ superstar quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In August, he made some comments which have since come back to bite him.
During a press conference, Rodgers said he was “immunized,” creating ambiguity over his vaccination status. Many believed he was vaccinated after these comments, so when reports came out he would have to quarantine for 10 days after getting COVID, the mandated length for any unvaccinated player in the NFL, many fans and reporters voiced their frustrations.
Additionally, images surfaced of Rodgers at a team Halloween party, which is a breach of the COVID-19 rules and regulations set by the NFL. Soon after, Rodgers went on the “Pat McAfee Show” on Sirius XM and explained that the reason he wasn’t vaccinated was because of an allergy he has to an ingredient found in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he said he would never consider getting it as he knew of many people who felt adverse effects after doing so.
After it was discovered that he attended the Halloween party, Rodgers and teammate Allen Lazard were fined $14,650 each, as unvaccinated players are not allowed to be in groups of more than three outside of the team facility. This was a relatively small fine, considering his $134 million contract, where $14,650 is equal to only 0.00099% of Rodgers’ base salary.
More troubling for Rodgers though, is the impact this controversy has had on his sponsorship deals. For example, his nine year partnership with Wisconsin health care company Prevea Health ended in response to this controversy. Additionally, although they issued a statement in support of Rodgers, State Farm has significantly reduced the number of ads they show him in. According to Apex Marketing Group, a sponsorship and analytics company, Rodgers appeared in only 1.5% out of the nearly 400 State Farm commercials that aired the Sunday after the controversy ensued.
The vaccine dilemma has already cost Rodgers significantly, and has the possibility of costing him even more in the future, as brands may be more reluctant to work with him on deals.
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the only one to see repercussions though. The Green Bay Packers were fined $300,000 for failing to let the NFL know about Rodgers and Lazard’s presence at the Halloween party and for not disciplining Rodgers as he didn’t wear a mask during some press conferences. Additionally, largely in part to Rodgers’ absence during his quarantine, the Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9. Evidently, the ripple effect of Rodgers’ actions was felt by the Packers.
Now, teams and players will look to this controversy as a blueprint of what not to do and will better understand the repercussions of COVID protocol violations. On the other hand, players with higher salaries may see the proportionately small fines given to Rodgers, and will feel less threatened to break protocols themselves. Other players who make lower salaries, though, may see this as a clear reason as to why they shouldn’t follow similar behaviors.
We shall see what occurs in the future, but evidently, the vaccine dilemma in sports is one which will continue to bring more controversy and implications to sport business in the foreseeable future.