Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, under fire for not being vaccinated for COVID-19, says he developed his own health protocol after consulting with doctors and the comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan.
Calling Rogan a good friend, Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show,” “I’ve been doing a lot of the stuff that he recommended in his podcasts and on the phone with me.”
The revelation has made Rodgers a folk hero among a relatively small but fervent group of Americans: Those who trust Rogan over Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who became a pop-culture icon during the pandemic.
As such, amid controversy over vaccine mandates, it’s Rogan vs. Fauci in a match that would have seemed implausible 18 months ago.
Back then, the nation was in the grips of Faucimania, with people buying Fauci socks and Fauci cupcakes to signal their devotion to the man who famously raised his hand to his face during a press conference with former President Donald Trump. The American public couldn’t get enough Fauci news. Even magazines like Runner’s World and Men’s Health were writing profiles about him. Polling in the spring of 2020 found that Fauci enjoyed favorable ratings among both Democrats and Republicans.
But Fauci’s positions on face masks and the vaccine have been seen by many conservatives as overreaching, and as questions mounted about whether the U.S. funded coronavirus research in Wuhan, a partisan gap began opening up in how Americans view Fauci. Kyle Smith, writing for National Review Online, noted that strong approval for Fauci among Republicans has sunk as low as 7%.
“In early April of 2020, Fauci’s approval ratings were consistent across ideological lines (65 percent among Democrats, 61 among Republicans, according to YouGov last April 4). By mid-July, that had changed completely: He was rated very favorably by 58 percent of Democrats but only 19 percent of Republicans, according to YouGov,” Smith wrote.
Then came #beaglegate, accusations that the National Institutes of Health provided funding for cruel experiments on puppies in Tunisia, and this story was accompanied by photographs. In dog-crazy America, perhaps the fastest route to cancellation is a photograph of small dogs being tortured at taxpayer expense.
Enter Joe Rogan, who contracted COVID-19 in August and “immediately threw the kitchen sink at it,” using a variety of treatments, including monoclonal antibodies and ivermectin, according to his Instagram post.
“A wonderful heartfelt thank you to modern medicine for pulling me out of this so quickly and easily,” he said.
Rogan has said that he’s not against the vaccine but doesn’t consider it necessary for people who, like him, are relatively young and healthy and eat a nutritious diet. But still, his position led to a dust-up with Fauci, who criticized the podcaster for what he saw as a selfish position, one that is “propagating the outbreak” and can lead to people who aren’t as healthy getting seriously ill.
As Deadline reported, “So if you want to worry about yourself, and not society, then that’s OK,” Fauci said. “But if you say to yourself even if I get infected, I could do damage to somebody else. … That’s the reason why you’ve got to be careful and get vaccinated.”
The argument that people should get vaccinated to protect others, however, doesn’t carry much weight among people who are vaccine hesitant because they are worried about the potential effects of the vaccine on their own bodies.
This is especially a concern for professional athletes, whose livelihoods could be at risk if they are among the small group of people who have adverse reactions. Additionally, Rodgers told McAfee that he wants to have a family, and that he is concerned that the vaccines might have an effect on his ability to have a child.
“The next great chapter in my life, I believe, is being a father, and it’s something that I care about a lot. To my knowledge, there’s been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines so that was definitely something that I was worried about.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, has said that there is “no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.”
Rodgers also said that he is allergic to an ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and ruled out Johnson & Johnson’s after it was briefly withdrawn over blood clot concerns.
Rodgers is not the only professional athlete to face outcry over his vaccination status. Like Rodgers, NBA star Kyrie Irving has said remaining unvaccinated is “what’s best for me.” Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac was applauded at the recent National Conservative Conference for his decision not to get the vaccine because he’s already had COVID-19 and has natural antibodies.
These athletes, however, are in the minority. ESPN has reported that 95% of NBA players have received the COVID-19 vaccine, which is roughly the same number as NFL players who have received at least one dose. Retired NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has argued that athletes have a heightened responsibility to be vaccinated, to set an example for others, writing on Substack that “it’s so shocking and disappointing to see so many people, especially people of color, treat the vaccination like it’s just a matter of personal preference, like ordering no onions on your burger at a drive-thru.”
Onions, of course, carry no risk of heart inflammation, which has been a side effect of vaccination, particularly among teens and young men, and is often mentioned by people hesitant to get the vaccine, along with the lack of data on long-term effects.
Meanwhile, Rogan, who had to briefly interrupt a nationwide tour of comedy shows when he got sick with COVID-19, has the No. 1 podcast on Spotify and is so popular that there’s even a podcast about his podcast. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, recently joked that if Texas were to secede, Rogan should be its president. The New York Times has pronounced Rogan “too big to cancel.”
It remains to be seen if that’s true of Fauci, and Rodgers, who can’t play again without a negative COVID-19 test.