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Whitlock: Terry Bradshaw and sports media establishment unfairly target Aaron Rodgers

Op-ed
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Even at age 73 and four decades removed from his last meaningful game, Terry Bradshaw remains the most important voice discussing America's national pastime, professional football.

From his perch as the lead analyst on the Fox Sports NFL pregame show, Bradshaw is football's Walter Cronkite. For football people, losing Bradshaw's support is the equivalent of Cronkite losing faith in the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson following the Tet offensive.

On Sunday, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost Bradshaw. The Hall of Fame quarterback took a massive dump on Rodgers for intentionally misleading about his vaccination status.

"I'd give Aaron Rodgers some advice," Bradshaw said from a temporary set at a military academy. "It would have been nice if he'd just come to the Naval Academy and learned how to be honest. Learned not to lie. Because that's what you did, Aaron. You lied to everyone."

Bradshaw's rebuke of Rodgers made news everywhere. Bradshaw's cohorts at Fox Sports joined their senior colleague in criticizing Rodgers, who missed Sunday's game while recovering from COVID and following NFL protocols. The Fox Sports gang served as an exclamation point to ESPN's week-long condemnation of the reigning league MVP.

The sports media establishment has spoken. Aaron Rodgers is a gutless, selfish liar unworthy of defense or sympathy. He's a pariah. Prevea Health dropped Rodgers as a spokesman. This past Sunday, State Farm Insurance slashed its use of Rodgers in its national TV commercials. After weeks of appearing in 25% of its commercials, Rodgers appeared in just 1.5% of the insurance company's ads.

Aaron Rodgers is well on his way to being the new Colin Kaepernick, a polarizing quarterback taking an unpopular stance. There are differences, however. Rodgers is the main reason the Packers win games. The team was on a seven-game winning streak before Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. Kaepernick lost 16 of his final 19 NFL starts. The other major difference is that Kaepernick never lost the support of Terry Bradshaw or the sports media establishment.

Kaepernick remains beloved by the sports media establishment. Outsiders criticized Kaepernick and were vilified as anti-black racists for doing so. President Trump ripped national anthem protesters. Fox News pundits chastised Kaepernick and his supporters.

The sports world circled the wagons around Kap. NFL owners joined players in taking a knee. NFL owners financed criminal justice vanity projects for players. Roger Goodell arranged a special audition for Kaepernick. The league eventually paid Kaepernick several million dollars to go away. Nike hired Kaepernick as a pitch man and created a signature shoe line. The establishment has hosted a five-year pity party for a quarterback with a career losing record, no Pro Bowl appearances, and no real desire to play football.

If Aaron Rodgers was as mediocre a quarterback as Kaepernick, the Packers would cut Rodgers today and Terry Bradshaw would join Jemele Hill, Bomani Jones, Dan Le Batard, Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, and Keith Olbermann in applauding the decision.

Rodgers is universally hated because he misled the public about his personal health. Rodgers' alleged "lie" did not harm anyone as far as we know. He didn't pass the coronavirus to a teammate, a secretary, a janitor, a cheerleader, or an assistant coach. He duped the media. That's his crime.

Kaepernick contributed to a false narrative about policing. He helped foster the lie that American police officers are wildly and randomly killing large numbers of black men during routine stops. Kaepernick increased America's racial divide and politicized the lone area of American culture — sports — that had been relatively free of political polarization.

When it comes to negative influence on American culture, who or what has done more damage: Rodgers' vaccine status or Kaepernick's knee?

It's not even close.

But we live in a society defined by the lies supported on social media. Jan. 6 was Pearl Harbor. Men are really women if they believe it in their minds. George Floyd is a hero. Black Lives Matter cares about black men. The flu disappeared and 700,000 people died of COVID.

When untruth becomes endemic to a culture, we should not be surprised that good people resort to deception.

Aaron Rodgers is Jack Nicholson in the movie "A Few Good Men." Rodgers misled because he has no faith that the media can handle the truth. In this country, medical conditions and procedures were intended to remain private between a doctor and a patient. In a year's time, COVID hysteria erased a long-held standard related to medical privacy. AIDs didn't erase medical privacy. COVID, a disease with a 99 percent survival rate, erased medical privacy.

Rodgers is unworthy of defense and empathy? He's a pariah. Why?

Because we're being trained and programmed never to challenge government authority. The consequences of disobedience are being spelled out for all to see.

The establishment loves Colin Kaepernick. Even Terry Bradshaw is forced to feign appreciation for Kap and express disdain for Rodgers.

We live in a world defined by lies.
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