Aaron Rodgers got off and Antonio Brown got hammered because Rodgers is too important and Brown is a scapegoat ... and Black.
This became a popular refrain on social media Thursday after Antonio Brown and two others earned a three-game suspension for presenting false COVID-19 vaccination documentation. This after Rodgers received a light fine after misrepresenting to the public his vaccination status. Here’s why:
Rodgers generally followed the rules. Brown broke every one of them.
Brown, under oath, willfully committed perjury, fraud, and reckless endangerment.
Rodgers lied about his homework.
The tweets implying institutional racism -- a sin the NFL is guilty of in several other areas -- ignored that, while Rodgers indeed received a light fine, so did his teammate, Allen Lazard, who is Black. In Twitter parlance, such messages were self-owns.
The larger discussion: Did Rodgers get enough by comparison? Rodgers lied to the public about being vaccinated, and regularly appeared at news conferences unmasked -- but he wasn’t fined for that. He and Lazard, who also was unvaccinated, attended a Halloween party, and that violated NFL protocols, which resulted in their $14,650 fines. The Packers were fined $300,000 for not enforcing protocols in their facilities, including allowing Rodgers to breathe all over the Fourth Estate.
Rodgers did far more damage than Brown, since, after he tested positive for COVID, he parroted anti-vaxxer lies, false claims, and non-cures, and validated fellow science-denier Joe Rogan -- but the NFL cannot punish stupidity.
Frankly, the 300K seems lighter than the $14,650; the Pack should have lost $1 million and a fifth-round pick. Regardless, what Brown et al. did was far, far worse. A hundred times worse.
Why? Because A-Rod got tested every day. AB got tested once a week. Brown knowingly exposed his unmasked, unvaccinated respiratory system to thousands of people over the last five months: bus drivers and athletic trainers and cooks, like the one who dimed him because Brown allegedly didn’t pay his $10,000 fee, and coaches, like Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, a three-time cancer survivor.
ESPN reported that the league’s investigation indicated Brown eventually did get vaccinated, but the report doesn’t specify when. Given the length of the suspension, it seems unlikely that Brown has been vaccinated for very long.
Brown wasn’t likely to play in the Buccaneers’ next three games, but he will lose $330,000. Safety Mike Edwards, on the other hand, will lose only $125,000, but his absence will hurt the team (a third player, John Franklin III, is out of the league). Edwards had the defensive game of the year against the Falcons in Week 2 when, on back-to-back series, he returned interceptions for touchdowns. Coincidentally, the Bucs play in Atlanta on Sunday.
Arians crowed on Sept. 2 that his entire team was vaccinated. Brown & Co. have made him look ridiculous, which is why he implied that there might be more punishment coming their way when they return. Arians also wondered aloud whether other anti-vaxx players have committed the same sin.
An Eagles source says that 80% of vaccinated NFL players got their shots from their teams, so fake vaccine passports can’t be rampant. But Arians is right. Leagues have generally been lax in verifying players’ vax status.
How many more players, worried about how the vaccine might affect their million-dollar bodies, asked friends and family to defraud their teams and leagues? On Thursday morning there were probably a few dozen athletes around the world quaking in their cleats and sneakers, hoping their leagues don’t do a vaccine audit.
Which is exactly what should happen.
Arians never holds back, and he admitted that his players’ behavior “pisses me off.”
It should do the same to you -- far more so than anything Aaron Rodgers did.
Jalen vs. Taysom: Who ya got?
For a while, the Taysom Hill Experience against the Cowboys looked great. Then, the hybrid quarterback/running back/tight end threw four interceptions, and lots of Saints fans started longing for the good ol’ days of conservative game manager Jameis Winston, who is hurt (yeah, that Jameis Winston).
Hill stubbed his toe Thursday night, but that was just his fifth start at quarterback in his five NFL seasons, and he did flash some traits that weren’t present in previous stints as Drew Brees’ gimmick-play understudy. His arm strength was impressive, his accuracy was sharp at times, and he was able to execute simple concepts. He needs to polish his footwork and his delivery, and have a better pocket presence. Sound familiar?
When the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in 2020 he was cast as Taysom 2.0: a strong runner with the ability to pass, but a long-term project at best. Carson Wentz played so poorly, however, that Hurts took over the starting job in Game 13 and never relinquished it.
Wentz then whined his way out of Philly, which landed Hurts the starter’s job by default. While Hurts manages the game well when it is simplified and run-centric, he has struggled when asked to do too much. Sound familiar?
Will Hurts ever be a “franchise quarterback”? Who knows.
Will Hill? The Saints seem interested in finding out, considering the complex extension ($40 million? $90 million?) he received last month.
I’ll say this: I’d love to see Hill get a full offseason and preseason as a starter, get comfortable with his targets, and have a chance to function behind a solid offensive line.
Either way, given the way the Lamar Jackson era of the NFL is unfolding, it will be fascinating to see where Hurts and Hill are five years hence.
Best show in town
The Philadelphia Union won their first playoff game with a last-minute score 123 minutes into the action. They won their second when, after a 1-1 tie in regulation, goalie Andre Blake stopped two penalty kicks and 18-year-old rookie Jack McGlynn buried a PK.
How to beat New York City FC in their first MLS conference final?
Get a lead and clamp down, fellas.