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NFL fines Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers for violating COVID protocols

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is shown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. On Tuesday, NFL officials fined the Packers, Rodgers and another player for violating the league's COVID-19 safety protocols.
Rick Scuteri
/
AP
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is shown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. On Tuesday, NFL officials fined the Packers, Rodgers and another player for violating the league's COVID-19 safety protocols.

NFL officials have fined the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard for violating the league's COVID-19 safety protocols.

League officials had launched an investigation into the Packers' adherence to safety protocols after Rodgers, the league's reigning MVP, tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

According to the NFL, Rodgers and Lazard's fines are a result of attending a Halloween party. With both players not vaccinated, they are prohibited from attending gatherings outside team facilities. The infraction resulted in a $14,650 fine for each player.

The NFL handed the Packers organization a $300,000 fine for its part in not properly enforcing safety protocols, including allowing Rodgers to not wear a mask at press conferences and not disciplining the players despite knowing about the Halloween party after it happened.

"We respect the League's findings and we recognize the importance of adherence to the COVID protocols to keep our team and organization safe and healthy," Packers president Mark Murphy said in a statement. "We will continue to educate the team regarding the importance of the protocols and remain committed to operating within the protocols."

ESPN first reported the fines.

The Packers were also notified that future violations could be result in more severe discipline, including lowered or lost draft picks. Last season, the New Orleans Saints had a sixth-round pick in the 2022 draft taken away after repeated violations of the NFL's COVID-19 protocols.

With Rodgers sidelined by the diagnosis and league protocols on Sunday, the Packers lost 13-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs. He remains at home as part of a league-imposed 10-day quarantine.

The quarterback's comments on his vaccination status cause a stir

In August, Rodgers told reporters that he had been "immunized" when asked whether he'd been vaccinated. He sought an exemption from protocols based on his antibody levels before the season, but the exemption was denied.

Speaking Tuesday on YouTube and SiriusXM's The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers discussed his decision to not be vaccinated and earlier comments he has made on the subject.

"I shared an opinion that's polarizing," Rodgers told McAfee, a former NFL punter and kicker who has garnered a wide audience commentating on sports. "I get it. And I misled some people about my status, which I take full responsibility of, those comments. But in the end, I have to stay true to who I am and what I'm about. I stand behind the things that I said."

Discussing vaccines four days before on the same outlet, Rodgers explained his reasons for avoiding a shot.

The star quarterback said he sought alternative treatments rather than the NFL-endorsed vaccinations because he is allergic to an ingredient in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. He did not specify which ingredient.

Mixed reactions from those who endorse Rodgers

Rodgers also said Friday that he became caught "in the crosshairs of the woke mob" and wanted to tell his side of the story "before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket."

Over the weekend, Wisconsin-based Prevea Health said it had ended its nine-year endorsement deal with Rodgers. The company's announcement said it was a mutual parting.

State Farm issued a statement Monday saying it disagrees with some of Rodgers' statements but respects his right to have his own opinion, an indication it would keep its relationship with one of its high-profile endorsers.

Rodgers said Tuesday that he doesn't feel a need to address the commentary that has followed his remarks about why he didn't get vaccinated.

"I'm an athlete. I'm not an activist," he said. "I'm going to get back to doing what I do best, and that's playing ball."

The 37-year-old quarterback says that he's feeling better and that he believes there's only "a small possibility" he wouldn't be available for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The earliest he is eligible to return to the team under COVID-19 protocols is Saturday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.

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