Criticism, People, Reflection

I’ll Give You 5 Reasons to Move-on…

Aaron isn’t Colin and I will tell you why.

The comparison is already being made. I want to reassure you all that we can continue to talk about Colin Kaepernick and flatly ignore Aaron Rogers because the former still matters and the latter never did.

Colin Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback who symbolically took a knee during the USA national anthem instead of putting his hand over his heart in order to raise awareness about a lack of accountability in policing that allowed higher rates of discrimination and violence toward people of color. Just wanted our non-USA readers to be in the loop~ I call him “Kap”, here. I like Kap. Aaron Rogers also played the position of quarterback and might still (I don’t really care).

First, let me clarify that no one should be engaging with Rogers about vaccines. There is no need for a negative response, nor a positive one. If someone did not pay attention to him before, they should not now. If someone paid attention to his football career before, they should continue to do that and feel the precise same ways about him as before. The obvious exception are personal contacts and employers– namely, the NFL and sponsors. I’m chewing on the idea of personal, professional, and cultural duties. As a non-medical professional, Aaron Rogers has no professional duty to comment on the vaccine. His personal duties are something I know nothing about and don’t want to know about.

Cultural duties are a different matter. That’s where we might run into a comparison to Kap. Rogers invited that comparison by quoting Dr. King. He isn’t any less qualified to do so than Kap but the situation is not the same. To me, it’s analogous to tossing a soccer ball into a basketball hoop. Neither of them are basketball players (figuratively speaking) but Kap is at least shooting a basketball into the hoop. The hoop is American Culture and Kap’s protest is intimately related to questions about American identity and institutions. Rogers protest isn’t engaging a lingering question– people who don’t want to be vaccinate can refuse the shot but that’s terrible medical advice according to the data. That’s the situation.

Here’s five reasons not to treat Rogers the same as Kap:

  1. Individual Liberty and Collective Responsibility aren’t antithetical BUT they aren’t the same thing, either… I’m leading with my strongest point, not saving it for later. Aaron Rogers’ decision is about individual liberty from responsibility — he’s trying to opt-out of doing what’s best for his community. Kap was opting-in to the discussion on police brutality out of a sense of collective responsibility. He had the resources to avoid or mostly avoid that situation and the discussion around it but he chose to be actively in solidarity and sacrifice opportunities. Rogers’ motivation was hyper-individualistic, Kap’s was not.
  2. The primary problem is not a cultural phenomenon… The virus is still a biological reality. In our hyper “woke” phase (where we’ve collectively become like the self-righteous teenager that tattles on other teenagers for kissing) we over-estimate the impact of human beliefs and attitudes. The viruses’ position never changes, regardless of the discourse. Vaccine efficacy is unaffected. I know many of you are worried about vax-hesitancy but I have bad news for you: engaging Rogers gave him a bigger platform to soil. Don’t confuse the importance of the pandemic response with the importance of non-expert’s responses. Anything that is not empirical evidence or experience working with the virus might as well be misinformation. Pro- or anti- vaccine, your opinion is just noise at this point.

    That’s not true for communities’ attitudes toward people of color. Your expressions of acceptance and support, or intolerance and suspicion, are determining factors. It’s a socio-cultural phenomenon. Indeed, implicit bias is influenced by messages in the media. We need to talk about racism, and crass forms of patriotism, and corruption in sports (penalizing athletes for taking moral stances). Whether we place our hands on our hearts or our knees on the ground, and the meaning behind those acts, are all things that public discourse is in the process of interpreting. We’re not interpreting anything WITH this virus– it isn’t part of “us”. Kap used his high profile to lead us into a discussion we need in order to be together as a society.
  3. Negativity bias is driving the news-cycle, as usual… The vaccine is not a matter of public opinion. I know it’s frustrating to hear someone broadcasting contrary messages but we have to temper our response. Ad hominem is a well-know fallacy but fallacious isn’t always wrong, simply a reason to think in more nuanced ways. It is perfectly fine to see the news-cycle latch onto something a famous person said and decide “that’s an ignorant position but it needs no rebuttal from me.” Elected officials need to be rebutted. If Ted Cruz says something of the same ilk, I expect there to be a response. Aaron Rogers is on the tapering-end of his career as a quarterback… in a small market. Outside of Green Bay, the press would not be derelict to ignore him. It’s not his wheelhouse.

    I saw that an actress I like spouted some ignorance about the vaccine. I said nothing. Y’all probably do not even know who I mean– you never knew or you forgot by now! I’ll still patronize her next movie. Her opinion on a medical matter means nothing to me, whether I like her or not, and I’m not going to let that opinion change how I feel about her. Her comments were well-intentioned but infantile. Just treat celebrities like children. Relative to epidemiologists, we’re all children in this sphere.

    Like I said in point #2, our dialogues are part of the phenomenon of race and policing in America; we’re part of it whether we wanted to be or not. It’s a cultural responsibility: it’s everyone’s wheelhouse.
  4. There are no symbols at stake this time… I mentioned this briefly before (but I’m trying to fill-out my list, okay) — the flag and the anthem were discussed during Kap’s protest. What it means to be a citizen, or a member of a community, or a conscientious person, or whatever — all of that was at stake. There’s really not a semiotics to Aaron Rogers’ non-compliance with a policy designed to protect him and other players. Could you render it as an image? That doesn’t make it less important, per se, but it does make it different than kneeling during the anthem. There’s no rallying-point for either side.
  5. This dude is likely more about fame than cause, anyway… I know this isn’t precisely ‘fair’ but Aaron Rogers chases the action. He dates starlets and race-car drivers. This is actually not his most tabloid-worthy moment on the public stage and I think he’s trying to keep the spotlight burning for himself a little longer before he’s less famous than his actress fiancée. This is his chance to feel important just for being an overgrown adolescent. Fair or not, his aura doesn’t carry nearly as much gravitas as Kap’s.

One similarity needs to be acknowledged: they’re both quarterbacks past their physical prime. I believe Kap had good years left but I know his peak was behind him. There’s a kernel of truth to the idea that he found it easier to kneel because he wasn’t sacrificing his best years. Yet Kap’s legacy exudes a higher quality vibe. He became a brand, with some of the ambiguities that accompany that, yet that’s a fundamentally different than Rogers broadcasting bad medical advice. Kap became one of the symbols at stake: a black man shouldering a common cause with other black people.

Our collective cause is beating the damn virus. Getting vaccinated is what we’re doing together. If there is a problem with the vaccines (there’s not– I worked in a COVID lab and everyone was vaccinated), again I say if there WAS something wrong with a vaccine then we would discover together as vaccinated people. He can not get the vaccine, fine; he doesn’t have to participate. He just doesn’t deserve to be heard outside of his personal life and the NFL. Get him out of my sight, out of ear-shot, into obscurity where he belongs.

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