Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called an audible call earlier this week, blaming Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for the negative press coverage he’s received in recent years.
Rodgers, a four-time NFL MVP, has discussed embracing his new role as a “villain” following the controversy over his vaccination status during the 2021 season.
During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday, Rodgers reflected on the controversy surrounding his health and blamed Big Pharma for helping to change his public reputation.
“If you take the right bite out of the right thing and it’s a station that may or may not have been brought to you in the past by Pfizer, they need to make sure their villain is put in the right light,” Rodgers said. “And whether or not they are sponsored by Pfizer or Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, whatever it is, when you go up against some of those powers that be, they put you in their sights, they will paint you a certain way. And that’s what the media did to me a couple of years ago. All right. This is their prerogative. This is what they wanted to do.
In August 2021, when Rodgers was asked if he had received a COVID-19 vaccine, he replied that he had been “immunized”. Subsequently, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and missed 10 days, including a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, due to the league’s COVID-19 policies for unvaccinated players.
It was revealed that Rodgers had not received a vaccine and had instead received homeopathic treatment which did not comply with NFL protocols for being considered vaccinated. Rodgers has received criticism for not wearing a mask in the press room despite him not being vaccinated, which violates NFL rules.
Additionally, Rodgers said he was allergic to an ingredient included in Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, while being uncomfortable with Johnson & Johnson’s jab.
To state the obvious: It’s no secret that big pharmaceutical and biotech companies spend a lot of money on advertising, especially the companies listed by Rodgers.
Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson each spent more than $100 million on digital, print, and national TV advertising in 2022, according to data from MediaRadar. between games during the early part of the 2022 NFL season, according to data from iSpot.tv.
While Rodgers may argue that his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine has hurt him in the court of public opinion, he continues to remain a popular figure in the NFL.
Last March, the NFLPA released rankings of all officially licensed NFL player products and merchandise from 2021 to February 2022. Rodgers was listed at number nine in terms of player sales during that period.
However, Rodgers’ comments prompted a backlash from media observers, especially those in the sports realm.
By Sports Illustrated Jimmy Traina he offered his two cents while also mentioning that he “wasn’t commissioned by Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.”
“The best part of Rodgers’ diatribe, however, is the implication that Big Pharma is coaching the networks to give him negative coverage because he hasn’t received the vaccine,” Traina wrote. “This is a QAnon-level conspiracy. But everybody remember, even Rodgers says he’s not a victim.
Meanwhile, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio said he “didn’t appreciate the blatant dishonesty” of Rodgers when asked about his vaccination status.
“I don’t need a check from Big Pharma to say that. I’ll do it for free,” wrote Florio. He lied. He knows he lied. And now he’s trying to cover up his lie by pushing a silly conspiracy theory that anyone who badmouths him isn’t doing it because they genuinely believe he lied, but because they’re being paid to do so.
For what it’s worth, a Twitter user noted the irony in light of the trade rumors about Rodgers potentially seeing him traded to the New York Jets, which are owned by Woody Johnson, the billionaire heir to Johnson & Johnson.