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The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in the NFL. Coming off a win over the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, the Packers have won seven straight. But this Sunday, the Packers will be without their superstar quarterback.
On Wednesday, reigning MVP and face of the franchise Aaron Rodgers tested positive for Covid-19 and will remain distant from the team for their upcoming game against the Chiefs. When the Packers seek to push their win streak to eight, Rodgers will be watching the game on on television.
In the post-pandemic world, fans have grown accustomed to players missing time after a positive Covid test. We’ve all become numb as we set our fantasy football lineups treating a positive Covid test as if it was a sprained ankle. That’s why it wasn’t shocking that someone, even of Aaron Rodgers’ stature, tested positive for Covid-19. What was shocking is that Aaron Rodgers had to enter protocols designed for unvaccinated players. Previously, the entire world assumed he was vaccinated.
Under NFL protocols, unvaccinated players must isolate for 10 days upon a positive Covid test. Vaccinated players, however, can rejoin their team after two negative tests 24 hours apart if they are asymptomatic. On Wednesday, Rodgers immediately entered 10-day isolation signaling his vaccination status.
The assumption that Rodgers was vaccinated stems from an exchange with a reporter in August.
Reporter: “Are you vaccinated, and what’s your stance on the vaccination?”
Rodgers: “Yea. I’ve been immunized. You know, there's a lot of conversation around it, around the league, and a lot of guys who have made statements and not made statements, owners who have made statements. There's guys on the team that haven't been vaccinated. I think it's a personal decision. I'm not going to judge those guys. There are guys that've been vaccinated that have contracted COVID. It's an interesting issue that I think we're going to see played out the entire season."
At the time, Rodgers was praised for being candid about his vaccination status while also sticking up for his unvaccinated teammates. But with what we know now – that quote reads a lot differently.
So, did Aaron Rodgers blatantly lie to the world about his vaccination status? Or did he just deceptively utilize semantics? You can decide that for yourself.
According to reports, Rodgers previously applied for an exemption to the strict league protocols for unvaccinated players. Under supervision from his personal doctor, Rodgers underwent homeopathic therapy to raise his antibody levels. He asked the NFL and the Players Union to review his status to determine what protocols he would have to abide by during the season. His case went to a neutral third-party medical expert for review, but Rodgers’ exemption request was eventually denied. Through this process the league was put on notice of Rodgers’ vaccination status. But the public was just made aware on Wednesday.
The NFL developed a set of strict rules that unvaccinated players are expected to comply with or they risk fine or suspension. Included in those rules are restrictions for unvaccinated players on the size of social gatherings they are allowed to attend off the field.
But the stringent protocols didn’t stop the Green Bay quarterback from celebrating Halloween over the weekend. According to his own Instagram page, Rodgers attended a party dressed as John Wick with several of his teammates in attendance.
Rodgers has yet to speak publicly following his positive Covid-19 test. As Rodgers mentioned in August, receiving a vaccine is “a personal decision”. Personal feelings aside, professional athletes are human beings that are granted the opportunity to make a choice on whether they want to get the shot. Rodgers would hardly be the first athlete to make headlines over refusing the vaccine. Kyrie Irving is currently sacrificing millions of dollars over his decision to remain unvaccinated. Other NFL quarterbacks have been vocal in their hesitancy around the vaccine, including Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz.
But there’s a difference between Rodgers and those other athletes – Rodgers wasn’t confident enough in his own choice to stand behind it. Instead, he misled the public and shielded himself behind claims he was “immunized”.
While Rodgers is facing a lot of heat off the field, inside his own locker room his teammates still have his back. Running back Aaron Jones, whose father died April 6 from Covid-19 complications, stated, "I don't think it's a selfish decision [to not be vaccinated]. I mean, there's guys across the league who are not vaccinated. And to say that they're not committed to their team, I think that that's not true. He's our leader, like you said. He's 100% committed to this team, just like anybody else is in this locker room."
The way the season progresses for the Packers will determine if this is just minor hiccup or if Rodgers’ absence will have lasting effects. Currently, there have been no reports on if the Green Bay quarterback is suffering from Covid related symptoms.
But while we’re here, I would be remiss if I didn’t quickly address the most common answer given when a player doesn’t feel comfortable disclosing their vaccination status:
“Uh, I don’t feel comfortable answering that. That’s HIPAA”.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to protect patients’ health information. The Act applies to health care providers and requires compliance to protect patient health information. These covered entities must refrain from unlawfully disclosing personal patient health information to third parties. Notably, HIPAA doesn’t apply to individuals and their own personal medical records.
Miraculously, this law is constantly cited by athletes when refusing to answer questions about their vaccination status. It’s true, athletes don’t have to answer an intrusive question about their views on the vaccine. But that’s just because of socially recognized personal privacy boundaries, not HIPAA.
So at least Rodgers can hang his hat on the fact that he didn’t improperly evoke a federal law when evading the question on if he’s vaccinated.
Matthew Netti is a 2021 graduate from Northeastern University School of Law. He currently works as an attorney fellow at the Office of the General Counsel for Northeastern University. You can follow him on twitter and instagram @MattNettiMN and find him on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-netti-ba5787a3/.
 Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tests positive for COVID-19, source says, ESPN (last visited Nov. 3, 2021) https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32542413/green-bay-packers-qb-aaron-rodgers-tests-positive-covid-19-source-says.  Id.  Nick Shook, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tests positive for COVID-19, will not play in Week 9 vs. Chiefs, NFL (last visited Nov. 3, 2021) https://www.nfl.com/news/packers-qb-aaron-rodgers-tests-positive-for-covid-19-will-not-play-in-week-9-ver.  Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tests positive for COVID-19, source says, ESPN (last visited Nov. 3, 2021) https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32542413/green-bay-packers-qb-aaron-rodgers-tests-positive-covid-19-source-says.  HIPAA Journal, Who Does HIPAA Apply To? (last visited Nov. 3, 2021) https://www.hipaajournal.com/who-does-hipaa-apply-to/.