The NFL has fined the Green Bay Packers $300,000 and franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers as well as wide receiver Allen Lazard $14,500 each for violating the league’s COVID-19 rules.
The move follows controversial comments Rodgers made last week about why he didn’t get vaccinated for COVID-19, despite previously saying publicly that he was "immunized."
Rodgers spoke Tuesday on "The Pat McAfee Show" on YouTube and SiriusXM, four days after discussing on the same outlet his reasons for avoiding a vaccine. Rodgers tested positive Wednesday, and was unavailable to play in the Packers’ 13-7 loss Sunday at Kansas City, remaining quarantined in his Green Bay home.
"I shared an opinion that’s polarizing," Rodgers said. "I get it. And I misled some people about my status, which I take full responsibility of, those comments. But in the end, I have to stay true to who I am and what I’m about. I stand behind the things that I said."
The three-time NFL MVP said he didn’t want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after hearing of multiple people who’d had adverse reactions to it. Rodgers also said he was worried about potential fertility issues from getting one of these three vaccines, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and obstetrician groups recommend COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant individuals and have affirmed that there are no fertility risks posed to men or women from the vaccines.
The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. were tested in tens of thousands of people and proven to be both safe and effective at dramatically reducing the risk of serious disease and death. Serious side effects are extremely rare — and any risk is far lower than the risks posed by COVID-19.
While Rodgers has defended his comments, he acknowledged he realizes the gravity of the pandemic and its impact.
"I understand that people are suffering," Rodgers said. "This has been a really difficult time for the last two years on so many people. We all know individuals who’ve lost their lives personally, people who’ve lost their businesses, their livelihoods. Their way of life has been altered completely. And I empathize with those things. I also know how sports cam be such a connector and bring people together in times of adversity. I do realize that I am a role model to a lot of people."
After Rodgers made his comments Friday, Wisconsin-based Prevea Health said it had ended its nine-year partnership with the veteran quarterback. Prevea Health’s announcement said it was a mutual parting.
State Farm issued a statement Monday saying it disagrees with some of Rodgers’ statements, but respects his right to have his own opinion, an indication it would keep its relationship with one of its biggest celebrity endorsers. State Farm’s statement says it encourages vaccinations but noted that Rodgers "has been a great ambassador for our company for much of the past decade."
Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game at Kansas City after being placed in the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol. Because he is unvaccinated, he must stay isolated for at least 10 days.
This is not the first time a franchise has been fined for similar violations of the NFL’s COVID-19 rules.
The Las Vegas Raiders were fined $500,000 last year — when there were no vaccinations available — for breaking protocols. But no teams lost picks in the 2021 draft for COVID-19 violations.
This story is developing. Check back for more. The Associated Press contributed.