Terry Bradshaw called him a liar. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he “damaged professional sports.” The public has given him nicknames such as“Kaaron Rodgers” and “Throw Rogan.”
But in the wake of the widespread criticism of Aaron Rodgers over his comments on COVID-19 shots and his dissembling statements on his own vaccination status, one of the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s major sponsors is standing by him.
State Farm released a statement backing Rodgers on Monday, days after the reigning NFL MVP found himself in controversy over skeptical comments he‘s made about the vaccine. On Friday, Rodgers defended his decision to not get the vaccine — decrying the “woke mob” during an appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show.”
Rodgers, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, was sidelined for Sunday’s game, a narrow Packers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rodgers’ comments on Friday were enough to convince a health care provider in Wisconsin to end its relationship with the quarterback.
The quarterback was also criticized for spreading misinformation, with medical experts debunking several of Rodgers’ claims (such as the vaccine causes infertility).
But State Farm, which has used Rodgers in a number of commercials, said it respects Rodgers’ “personal point of view” — even if the company does not agree with the comments.
“Aaron Rodgers has been a great ambassador for our company for much of the past decade,” a State Farm spokeswoman told USA TODAY Sports in a statement.
“We don’t support some of the statements that he has made, but we respect his right to have his own personal point of view. We recognize our customers, employees, agents and brand ambassadors come from all walks of life, with differing viewpoints on many issues. Our mission at State Farm is to support safer, stronger communities. To that end, we encourage vaccinations, but respect everyone’s right to make a choice based on their personal circumstances.”
The backing from the insurance company is one of the latest developments in a wild saga that has put one of the NFL’s most recognizable names at the forefront of anti-vaccine movement. Rodgers has rejected that label — “I’m not an anti-vax, flat-earther,” he said Friday — but the quarterback is the biggest sports star thus far to be outspoken about the vaccine.
In his interview with McAfee, a former NFL punter, Rodgers accused the media of conducting a “witch hunt” over a person’s vaccination status.
“I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something,” Rodgers said. “Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. And for me, it involved a lot of study in the offseason. … I put a lot of time and energy researching this and met with a lot of people to get the most information about the vaccines before I made my decision.”
But Rodgers was heavily criticized for the interview. During Fox’s NFL pregame show, Bradshaw said Rodgers needed to “learn not to lie, because that’s what you did, Aaron.” Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson, in the same segment, called Rodgers “selfish.”
Rodgers appeared to mislead reporters and the public back in August when he was asked if he was vaccinated. “Yeah, I’m immunized,” Rodgers replied.
The three-time MVP was not asked a follow-up question about being “immunized” — and Rodgers said Friday he was willing to disclose that he was unvaccinated if asked then. But that didn’t stop others from noting that Rodgers appeared to break NFL protocols by not wearing a mask indoors during press conferences — a requirement for unvaccinated players. Rodgers was also seen at a Halloween party with Packer teammates while not wearing a mask.
The NFL has reportedly opened an investigation into whether Rodgers and the Packers broke additional protocols, which were agreed to by the players’ union. USA Today reported that, if found in violation, Rodgers is expected to be fined — not suspended.
Even as State Farm backed Rodgers in a statement, the insurance company apparently featured the quarterback less than normal over the weekend. According to Apex Marketing Group, State Farm aired commercials featuring Rodgers in 1.5% of its spots that aired Sunday — down from the 25% that it aired the past two Sundays.
Preva Health, a Wisconsin health care company, said Saturday that it and Rodgers mutually agreed to end their relationship. Rodgers, the company said, had served as a spokesman since 2012.