One thing that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made perfectly clear over the past several years is that he is much more than just a football player. Rodgers is an excellent golfer and has joined the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks, cementing his commitment to sports in the state of Wisconsin. He is also a dedicated member of the community in the area, becoming the most prominent public face of the MACC Fund and recently discussing his ongoing support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
With these factors in mind, then, it should come as no surprise that Rodgers has strong opinions about the NFL’s treatment of players both on and off the field, the league’s handling of players’ social justice-related demonstrations, and general current events around the United States. Rodgers shared those opinions in interviews with NFL Network’s Michael Silver and The Ringer’s Kevin Clark, which were both published this week, and his comments are worth examination.
In Clark’s piece, Rodgers dives more significantly into the NFL and its own specific issues. Clark’s premise revolves around what Rodgers would try to do if he were in Roger Goodell’s shoes as league commissioner, and he had plenty to say. However, one of the most profound statements he made involves the inconsistencies with the league’s owners’ reaction to players who protest about social issues during the national anthem:
“If you’re going to take the focus off of what the protest was really about—it was never about the anthem, it was never about the troops, it was about social equality and racial injustice—then make it all about the anthem.” Rodgers points out that other activities continue on in NFL stadiums while the anthem is played, and he also looked back on the period early in his career: “We never came out for the anthem back in the day ... the messaging has been changed. If the owners see it as all about the flag and the anthem, everybody should be held to the same standard.”
Rodgers appears to be in favor of everyone in the stadium being treated the same, rather than just the players on the field. He likes the idea of stopping food and merchandise sales during the performance, for example.
But in talking to Silver, Rodgers explored the protests themselves in more detail, emphasizing that he and his fellow players “love and support and appreciate the troops” in the US military. Rodgers’ actions with the Wounded Warrior Project in particular illustrate that, even though it is the type of proactive work that often goes unseen or ignored; as he says, “the good stuff doesn’t get the headlines.” Rodgers also says that he refuses to engage with fans — or the current president — when they criticize him or other players for their actions or statements; in his words, doing so would be “giving credence to an opinion and value to an opinion that’s way off base — because they’ve missed the point of what this was all about.”
Of course, as a football player, Rodgers has plenty of thoughts on how the league he plays in runs things as well. Furthermore, going through a contract negotiation, as he is now, is giving him a particularly informed opinion on the league’s financial setup under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Some of the ideas he suggested are borrowed from the NBA, which is hardly a coincidence. He mentioned things like a soft salary cap, eliminating the franchise tag, implementing veteran-friendly contract options, and others. He also would like to see more communication between the league and players on all rules changes — another area where the NBA has taken the lead under current commissioner Adam Silver.
Interestingly, though Rodgers is all for improving player safety in football, there are limits to how far he would be willing to go. The college football targeting rule, for one thing, is something he dislikes (saying “the enforcement lacks a little bit of oversight”), and he’s not a fan of the new kickoff rules. He’s also pleased with the progress on head injuries, saing “I don’t know much more you can do on that except fining teams who don’t adhere to the protocol.”
Oh, and of course the guy with the iconic championship belt celebration is fully supportive of players being able to express themselves after touchdowns. “You’ve got to respect celebrations. You love them, look forward to them,” he said. “Let guys be guys.”
Let them, indeed.
Check out the articles below for much more of Rodgers’ comments on these issues: