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State Farm stays quiet after Aaron Rodgers' COVID-19 vaccine comments and MLK comparison

Aaron Rodgers smiles
Carleigh Gray
WGLT file photo
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an American Red Cross fundraiser in Normal in 2018.

State Farm on Friday declined to comment on Aaron Rodgers’ future as one of the company’s top spokesmen, after the NFL quarterback voiced anti-vaccine views and compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr. during an interview.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback appeared Friday on the “The Pat McAfee Show,” which streams on YouTube and satellite radio, to “tell his side of the story.” Rodgers made headlines this week after testing positive for COVID-19 following what some considered a misleading answer to an earlier question about his vaccination status.

Rodgers is one of State Farm’s top spokesmen — even being spotted in Bloomington a few times — along with fellow NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Rodgers and Mahomes were scheduled to face each other Sunday in a rare regular season matchup, but that was scuttled after Rodgers’ positive test.

WGLT contacted State Farm on Friday asking if the Bloomington-based company planned to continue using Rodgers as a spokesperson or if they had any response to Friday’s interview.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on Aaron’s vaccination status,” a spokesperson said.

This is not the first time a State Farm spokesman has faced criticism for his public stance on vaccines.

In 2014 the insurer pulled an ad featuring former "Saturday Night Live" actor Rob Schneider over his outspoken stance against childhood vaccines. The ad featured his "SNL" character Richmeister working at a State Farm office.

Prevea Health, a Wisconsin health care organization, ended its nine-year partnership with Rodgers on Saturday. A statement posted on Twitter by Prevea said the company and Rodgers mutually agreed to end their partnership. Prevea and Rodgers had been partners since 2012.

Fertility and ivermectin

Rodgers confirmed Friday he was not vaccinated, citing what he called an allergy to an ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. He said he was now in the crosshairs of a “woke mob” and “cancel culture” even though he is “not some sort of anti-vaxx flat-earther.” He said “bodily autonomy” was important to him and that health should not be political.

During Friday’s interview, Rodgers questioned the safety and efficacy of vaccines, even though the prevailing view of the medical community is that they are safe and effective.

“If the vaccine is so great, then how come people are still getting COVID, and spreading COVID, and unfortunately dying from COVID? If the vaccine is so safe, then how come the manufacturers of the vaccine have full immunity? Let’s just step back and realize this vaxx is revolutionary. However, we don’t know a whole lot about it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers also said he didn’t get the vaccine in part because of concerns about its impact on his ability to have children. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men, according to the CDC.

“The next great chapter in my life, I believe, is being a father. It’s something I care about. To my knowledge, there’s been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines. That was definitely something I was worried about,” Rodgers said. “We don’t know what the long-term effects of these are. There are still clinical trials going until 2023.”

Again, there is no evidence that any vaccines cause fertility problems in women or men. This false information is one driver of low vaccination rates among pregnant women.

Rodgers said he’s taking ivermectin, which has been used for decades to treat river blindness, scabies and even head lice. Veterinarians also use it, in different formulations and dosages, to treat animals for parasites like worms. U.S. health authorities and most doctors do not recommend using ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, citing a lack of clear evidence on whether the drug works.

Rodgers said he got advice on COVID from his medical team, as well as radio and podcast host Joe Rogan. Rogan, who contracted COVID himself, has endorsed ivermectin. Rogan faced criticism after saying that young and otherwise healthy people don’t need a COVID-19 vaccine.

Also in Friday’s interview, Rodgers appeared to compare himself to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when raising objections to the NFL’s extra rules for unvaccinated players.

“As an aside, the great MLK said, you have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers denied misleading his coaches, teammates, the media or public about his vaccination status in his Aug. 26 comment about “being immunized.”

“The organization knew exactly what my status was. My teammates knew exactly what my status was. There was nothing that was hidden,” Rodgers said.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.