LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – Los Angeles Lakers icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did not mince words Monday in his criticism of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' handling of his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Back in August, the 37-year-old Rodgers told reporters that he was "immunized" against the coronavirus, leading many to believe that he was vaccinated against the disease.
However, last week, Rodgers confirmed that he is in fact unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Rodgers learned he contracted COVID-19 on Nov. 3, and under NFL protocol for unvaccinated players, cannot rejoin the Packers for 10 days. He missed Sunday's game at the Kansas City Chiefs, and he must have a negative test to return to the team on Nov. 13.
Rodgers "directly and deliberately lied to fans and the public when he assured everyone he was 'immunized,' knowing that word would be interpreted as his being vaccinated. He wasn't vaccinated," Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a column on Substack. "And he got COVID-19. And he went maskless during in-person press conferences, which not only violated NFL rules, but put everyone else's health at risk."
Rodgers said last week he sought alternative treatments instead of the NFL-endorsed COVID-19 vaccinations because he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the FDA-approved shots. Speaking on "The Pat McAfee Show on YouTube and SiriusXM Friday," Rodgers said: "I'm not an anti-vax, flat-earther. I have an allergy to an ingredient that's in the mRNA vaccines. I found a long-term immunization protocol to protect myself and I'm very proud of the research that went into that."
That did not sit well with Abdul-Jabbar.
"Instead of consulting immunologists, he consulted anti-vaxxer and podcast host Joe Rogan, who also contracted the virus," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "If he ever requires open-heart surgery will he hand the scalpel to romance writers because they know about matters of the heart? While many who came into contact with him thought he was vaccinated, Rodgers had embarked on his own regimen to boost his 'natural immunity.' He failed, as any scientist could have told him—and as they have been publicly telling us for over a year."
During the interview with McAfee, Rodgers also misquoted the CDC website and offered his explanation for why hasn't taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Rodgers said the CDC's website says "should you have an allergy to any of the ingredients, you should not get one of the mRNA vaccines. So those two (Moderna and Pfizer) were out already."
Instead the CDC site says, "If you have had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction — even if it was not severe — to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines."
Rodgers did not say he had an allergic reaction.
He said with some of the public issues involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — clotting issues and his "hearing of multiple people who had had adverse events around getting the J&J ... the J&J shot was not even an option at that point."
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. The vaccines now have been given to more than 200 million Americans and that real-world use plus extra government safety tracking have made clear that serious side effects are extremely rare — and that any risk is far lower than the risks posed by COVID-19.
"What's especially bothersome is that Aaron Rodgers didn't just lie and threaten the health of those around him, he also damaged professional sports," Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "Many athletes make a lot of money on product endorsements, which depends on the public's favorable perception of athletes. In 2020, global sports sponsorship was worth about $57 billion. Yet, every time a pro athlete like Kyrie Irving (anti-vax), Henry Ruggs (speeding at 156 mph, crashing, and killing someone), Evander Kane (forging vaccination card), or Aaron Rodgers does or says something stupid, the public trust in athletes lowers and sponsors might consider avoiding players in favor of actors, pop stars, or social media influencers. Steph Curry and LeBron James don't have to worry, but some up-and-comers might not get the same opportunities."
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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