Aaron Rodgers 'damaged professional sports:’ Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right?

Stephen B. Morton / AP

Fact Box

  • Aaron Rodgers is quarterback for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Since being drafted in 2005, he led his team to victory in the Super Bowl XLV and has won two MVP awards.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a former professional basketball player with 20 years of experience playing for the NBA. When he retired in 1989, he was the “NBA’s all-time leading scorer” with 38,387 points, 17,440 rebounds, 3,189 blocks, and 1,560 games. 
  • On November 8, 2021, Abdul-Jabbar called out Rodgers for “lying” to fans in regards to his vaccination status, saying, “What’s especially bothersome is that Aaron Rodgers didn’t just lie and threaten the health of those around him, he also damaged professional sports [...] every time a pro athlete like Kyrie Irving [...] or Aaron Rodgers does or says something stupid, the public trust in athletes lowers.” 
  • Rodgers confirmed he was unvaccinated after testing positive for COVID in an interview on “The Pat McAfee Show” on November 5, 2021. He claimed he was allergic to an ingredient in the vaccines; instead, he chose to participate in a long-term immunization protocol. He defended his decision, saying, “I believe strongly in bodily autonomy, and the ability to make choices for your body.”

Jimmy (Yes)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar claims Aaron Rodgers' lies about his vaccination status erase years of work in changing public perception of athletes as, 'Dim-wits one step above tackling dummies on the evolutionary scale.' Leveraging his privilege to gaslight the country, Rodgers damaged the legitimacy of voices used as beacons of change. Instead, he played into vaccine myths while co-opting the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, saying, 'the great MLK said you have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense.'

In 2008, television host Laura Ingraham lashed out against political comments made by Lebron James, claiming he should, 'Shut up and dribble.' This has become a familiar refrain to many athletes. In an op-ed, Tennis-pro Naomi Osaka responded, 'Sports have never been apolitical, and as long as they continue to be played by human beings, they won't be.' Osaka is right. Since the 18th century, politics and sports have been bedfellows. While vilified by some, the tradition remains consistent historically.

Aaron Rodgers' lies and misinformation perpetuate the divisions surrounding COVID-19 in our society. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, US opinions surrounding the coronavirus are politically divided more so than in other 'advanced economies.' Rodgers exacerbates these attitudes by describing those calling for vaccination as a 'crazed group of individuals' and by calling an official of the NFL that tracked teams' vaccination rates a 'stooge.' What Rodgers refers to as a 'woke mob,' Abdul-Jabbar calls 'compassion and responsibility toward others.' While many athletes, from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick, have attempted to use their platform to inspire change, Rodgers selfishly manipulates his. The effect cheapens its value for those that wish to use it for activism.


Curtice (No)

Kareem Abdul-Jabber believes Aaron Rogers' statements about the COVID vaccines hurt the image of professional athletes at large by bringing 'back to life the old stereotype of the big dumb jock.' Not hardly. Rogers did plenty of research before making his vaccination decision. Stereotypical 'dumb jocks' don’t spend much time researching much of anything.

If one player can damage the image of professional athletes and the sports world in general, then professional sports isn't very strong to begin with. Professional sports leagues have done enough to damage themselves with punitive COVID protocols and vaccine mandates, as well as bending to the woke mob and its latest cause.

Abdul-Jabbar further wrote that 'In this case, woke means compassion and responsibility toward others.' Actually, 'woke' means what it has always meant in recent years—whoever says something in opposition to the mainstream social justice point of view, the woke will use their power to get them 'canceled.” They refuse to believe that free people can freely do their own cost/benefit analysis and reasonably reach different conclusions from others.

There are valid reasons for and against individuals choosing to get vaccinated or not. But therein lies the problem for many—the right to have that choice. Abdul-Jabber knows full well that being vaccinated does not keep one from getting or transmitting the COVID virus. A look at the NFL COVID list will drive that point home.

Finally, Abdul-Jabbar invokes Colin Kaepernick, describing him favorably while referring to Rogers derisively as a 'multi-millionaire.' Left unsaid by Abdul-Jabber is that both he and Kaepernick are also multi-millionaires. However, while Kaepernick has lied to capitalize on his self-made image as a racial victim, Rogers lied to exercise bodily autonomy and maintain his career.

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