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The MRC's COVID Sports Selfishness Brigade

Led by sports bloggers Jay Maxson and John Simmons, the Media Research Center labored to turn Aaron Rodgers and Novak Djokovic into heroes for deceiving officials about their COVID vaccination status.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/17/2022

The Media Research Center was already giving love to pro football quarterback Aaron Rodgers in an Oct. 20 post, when the mysterious Jay Maxson gushed over how Rodgers "became the latest celebrity to speak out against cancel culture. A blight on the nation, cancel culture is part of a soft society that attempts to shrink and silence people, the Packers’ quarterback observed on the Pat McAfee Show," adding how "The quarterback said American society is “soft” and intolerant of people’s right to disagree. He criticized how people can’t have “back and forths” disagreements without somebody feeling offended."

In retrospect, one wonders if Rodgers was trying to buy himself a little right-wing inoculation against an upcoming scandal -- which broke a couple weeks later when it was revealed that Rodgers lied to his Green Bay Packers team about being vaccinated against COVID (his insistence that he didn't notwithstanding), falsely claiming he was "immunized" when actually he was taking dubious medications like ivermectin. He then tested positive for COVID. Of course, the MRC -- whose sports bloggers have been pushing anti-vaxxer arguments for a while now -- launched a full-throated defense of Rodgers.

Matt Philbin devoted a Nov. 5 post to Rodgers saying all the conservatively correct things in defending his selfishness:

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has suddenly become one of the great villains in pro sports. He caught the covid this week and it turns out he never got vaccinated. Thus, sneering sports mandarins like Nancy Armour cast him out into the darkness as “anti-science.”

It won’t help that Rodgers isn’t contrite. In fact, he’s fighting back. Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show, the sidelined (for the week) superstar said, “I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now,” and he wanted to address some of the issues about him and the vaccine, “before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket.”

Sounds like a guy who knows exactly what’s going on. He called the hysteria around athletes’ reluctance to get vaccinated “a witch hunt..” He also pointed out that "Every member of the left" was anti-vaccine until Joe Biden took office. And he’s right. There are plenty of examples of lefties expressing reluctance to take any drug developed during the Trump Administration.

Actually, he's wrong. As ConWebWatch documented when Philbin's fellow MRC workers pushed this right-wing narrative, Trump was cynically using the promise of a vaccine as a re-election ploy and thus couldn't be trusted about the vaccines' efficacy (not to mention his being a congenital liar), and top Democrats including Joe Biden and Katherine Harris sensibly said they would trust credible medical officials over the word of Trump.

Philbin went on to uncritically quote Rodgers insisting that "I'm not an anti-vax, flat-earther,” and that he had allergies to two of the available shots, though he didn't demand evidence from Rodgers to back that up or explain why Rodgers should be taken at his word.

But the MRC is blindly loyal to anyone who spouts their agenda, and Rodgers is their new champion. Maxson -- who has used his (or her) platform to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID and its vaccines -- used a Nov. 9 post to defend Rodgers from criticism by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

When athletes like Rodgers say something stupid, “the public trust in athletes lowers and sponsors might consider avoiding players in favor of actors, pop stars, or social media influencers.” Woke athletes like Stephen Curry and LeBron James don’t have to worry about that (by parroting left-wing narratives), but young, rising stars might be denied lucrative advertising deals.

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer went through a whole litany of statistics in defending vaccinations, calling Rodgers ignorant for not doing likewise and taking the jab. He said it’s a lie that Rodgers is passionate about people’s health.

The hardcore lefty never questioned his pal James’ veracity when the current Lakers’ star said blacks are hunted by police and that racist remarks were spray-painted on his L.A. mansion. It's the outrageous social justice and race-baiting like that which has crushed the NBA's favorability ratings.

Maxson went on to sneer that Abdul-Jabbar "has often been judged by the weak content of his character," but linked only to his (or her) own posts as evidence of that "judging."

The defensive whining continued:

  • A Nov. 9 post by Kristine Marsh cheered that "Rodgers pushed back against the “woke mob” for pushing for his cancellation from sponsorships and the excessive media criticism of him" and bashed "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin for criticizing him, huffing that "'Tolerant' leftists want to punish anyone who mocks their totalitarian impulses."
  • Maxson returned to play whataboutism, whining that the Packers "were subjected to a massive fine over COVID-19 protocol violations, while Henry Ruggs III and Deshaun Watson, who allegedly committed far greater offenses, have not been fined a penny." He (or she) then tried to soft-pedal Rodgers' lie to his team: "It was learned that in preseason he was immunized, but not vaccinated. He then engaged unsuccessfully with the NFL in an attempt to get the league to approve of the immunization. He’s been accused of intentionally lying about being vaccinated."
  • The next day, Maxson played whataboutism on Abdul-Jabbar for criticizing Rodgers while his son "received a ridiculously light sentence for stabbing a man to within an inch of his life."
  • Maxson served up even more whataboutism on a sportswriter who criticized Rodgers while also being a defender of Colin Kaepernick, whom Maxson obsessively hates: "There is no real comparing Rodgers’ refusal to take shots or wear a mask in public with a malcontent who led countless athletes astray and a deepening of the American divide.

Maxson whined further on Nov. 15 about vaccinated NFL players who contracted COVID being treated differently than Rodgers:

Vaccinations are not fool-proof preventers of COVID-19. They are, however, “vaccinations” against objective reporting by out-and-out dishonest sports media. The stories of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Minnesota Vikings guard Dakota Dozier and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are living proof.

As most people know by now, the media went berserk over Rodgers, who said he had been “immunized” before catching COVID-19 and sitting out last week’s game. Dozier and Roethlisberger were vaccinated and still caught the coronavirus, but they both got treated with kid gloves by woke media hypocrites.

Maxson didn't mention that one big reason for the disparate treatment is that those players didn't lie about being vaccinated, like Rodgers did.

In a Nov. 18 post, John Simmons -- who like Maxson has spread COVID misinformation and conspiracy theories -- cheered that the NFL was "hilariously outsmarted by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on their vaccine policy," which is a funny way of describing how Rodgers lied to his team and embraced dubious treatments instead of actually getting vaccinated. He went on to grumble that "The overreaching, nonsensical, and fear-based protocols the NFL has implemented throughout the year have ignored science, disregarded personal choice, and divided the league between the good (vaccinated) and bad (unvaccinated) people.

On Nov. 28, Maxson sympathetically reframed Rodgers being a jerk into him merely telling a joke that people who aren't his fans didn't get:

The Wall Street Journal didn’t get the joke. After Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed he has a broken toe last week, he humorously called it “COVID toe.” That remark was in reference to massive media coverage of him previously catching the coronavirus after not having been vaccinated. The WSJ took the joke as truth – hook, line and sinker – and ran a story on it.


Nonetheless, a day later, the WSJ’s Andrew Beaton reported that Rodgers is dealing with “a mysterious and painful toe injury.” He reported “COVID toe” is a real ailment related to people with the coronavirus and sore toes.

Maxson offered no evidence that Rodgers was, in fact, telling a joke beyond uncritically quoting Rodgers complaining about the coverage of his statement.

Simmons was still defending Rodgers in a Dec. 17 post, this time against President Biden:

Let’s get one thing straight: President Joe Biden has proven in his tenure in the White House that he is not an expert in ... well, pretty much anything, and certainly not in how individuals should handle their own health.

That is why one cannot help but laugh at Biden’s latest quip on what he thinks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers should do regarding the COVID vaccine.

While visiting communities in Kentucky that were devasted by tornadoes this past weekend, Biden had an interaction with a woman wearing a winter hat with the Packers logo in which he told the people that Rodgers should get the vaccine. The people laughed at his quip, and Biden continued to inspect the devastation.

But the truth is, Rodgers should not get vaccinated just because someone else wants him to or because outside voices are pressuring him – not even when it’s the President of the United States.

You know who else isn't a health expert? Aaron Rodgers. It's clear he did not confirm with his own team's health experts before lying to them about being vaccinated. But Simmons is more than happy to give him a pass on that lie by insisting his claim of being "immunized" actually means something (and because he's now a right-wing hero):

Rodgers stated before the beginning of the season that he was “immunized” against COVID, but was crucified when the media found out that he was not vaccinated. Everyone from sports reporters to talk show hosts painted him as a dangerous, anti-science attention seeker when it was further discovered that he consulted Joe Rogan on what medications he should take to keep himself healthy.

But those same people are perfectly fine when governments, businesses, and even some people’s family and friends demand that we take the vaccine because they think it is the only way to salvation from COVID-19. Furthermore, it’s always funny how our government leaders think that they hold the monopoly on all the effective treatments to fight sicknesses. Our bodies and other methods have helped us do just fine for thousands of years before vaccines came on the medical scene.

So, even if the most powerful man in the free world thinks that you should get the vaccine, neither you, nor Rodgers, nor anyone should feel like they have to. Make your own choices, and do not apologize to anyone once you do.

It should also be noted that Simmons has offered no health expertise either -- he's just spouting right-wing anti-vaxxer rhetoric.

Simmons defended Rodgers going full conspiracy mode in a Dec. 29 post:

Despite getting crucified by the left-winged media for not being vaccinated, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to throw haymakers at the vaccine narrative.


Yesterday, he went on the Pat McAfee Show and blasted his critics, offering no apology for his actions (because he does not need to) and roasting those who blindly accept the COVID safety narrative:

“If science can’t be questioned, it’s not science anymore; it’s propaganda...That’s the truth.”

Ouch. That’s got to hurt if you’re on the Left.


Like his passing game, Rodger’s takes on how to combat COVID have been top-notch. While he claims to be an independent thinker and does not choose to align himself with any political party, the gunslinger continues to hold fast to logic in a world that is increasingly becoming illogical.

What does it say about both Rodgers and Simmons that they believe COVID science is so politicized that to be in support of safety measures is the same thing as being on "the Left"? Nothing logical and everything about how hard the MRC has labored to turn basic safety questions into a partisan attack.

Maxson spent a Jan. 3 post whining that Forbes magazine criticized Rodgers' anti-vaxxer attitudes in an article on the highest-paid athletes even though he wasn't actually on the list:

The NFL’s reigning most valuable player – who isn’t really on the list of highest paid athletes – “unleashed a firestorm after he was revealed to be unvaccinated after testing positive for the virus in November,” Saul wrote. Rodgers – who isn’t among the high paid athletes – said he feared the vaccine could cause sterility and fertility issues.” There is no evidence to this claim, Saul said.

Notch taken out of superstar athlete by obscure reporter who can’t stick to his reporting criteria.

Maxson then mixed in some conspiracy-mongering with his defense of selfish athletes:

It’s not hard to understand why athletes were hesitant to get jabbed. There are risks, though rare, of death (10,688 through Dec. 20, 2021), severe allergic reactions, blood clotting, paralysis and more.

That’s not supposed to matter if you wear a shirt stating Knicks, Steelers or Flyers on the front. Or if your name is on the wealthy list. Then the media give you no quarter for vaccination concerns. Your rights of conscience suddenly disappear.

Nonetheless, athletes who perform in the public eye are not allowed to weigh such serious risks to themselves. They’re supposed to take one for the team even if they some doubts. In fact, they’ve had the media riding them all season to set their well-being aside for vaccines with very shaking records.

In fact, there have been no deaths linked to any COVID vaccine, let alone 10,688 (Maxson didn't say from where that number was plucked) and their safety records are very good, not "very shaking."

Maxson took another shot at Biden while defending Rodgers anew in a Jan. 23 post:

President and vaccination fanatic Joe Biden recently made a stupid remark to a Green Bay Packers fan urging her to tell quarterback and vaccine opponent Aaron Rogers to get the jab. Appearing on an ESPN TV program Friday, Rodgers retaliated to that and foolish remarks the president has made about vaccines.


Fast forward to Friday. Rodgers, who has not been vaccinated, but contracted COVID three months after taking Ivermectin and other health items, took aim at dumb Biden remarks in his conversation with ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg:

“When the president of the United States says, ‘This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ it’s because him and his constituents, which, I don’t know how there are any if you watch any of his attempts at public speaking, but I guess he got 81 million votes.”

In the ESPN appearance, Rodgers offered no indication he’ll get vaccinated for a coronavirus he already had in November. All along, he’s referred to his preseason treatment as an immunization. So Biden can save his breath about that.

Maxson also cheered how "Rodgers also described COVID as being the pandemic of comorbidities, more than it is the pandemic of the unvaccinated" -- never mind that being unvaccinated is very easily fixed, while many comorbidities are not, or that COVID would be less of a threat to those with comorbidities if more people were vaccinated. Maxson also noted that he referenced a claim that "75 percent of the COVID deaths have at least four comorbidities," which is a misreported, out-of-context statement by CDC director Rochelle Walensky. In fact, Walensky was summarizing a study of 1.2 million vaccinated people, in which severe COVID later occurred in .003 percent of patients, or 189 of them, and of those, 36 died; it's from that number that the 75 percent figure is pulled as having four or more comorbidities, for a total of 29.

Maxson concluded by sneering: "So much for know-nothing presidents falsely calling COVID “the pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Mr. Biden, would you care for a dose of truth serum?" Seems like Maxson is the one who desperately needs a hit of truth serum.

Novak Djokovic, anti-vaxxer hero

Simmons used an Oct. 26 post to gush over tennis star Novak Djokovic selfishly refusing to get vaccinated ahead of the Australian Open tournament, even though Australia called for foreign visitors to be vaccinated:

Novak Djokovic is without question one of the greatest tennis players of our generation. Nevertheless, he is often branded as a villain of the sport due to his racket-smashing shenanigans and his willingness to challenge the level-headed, gentlemanly mold of a tennis player with his intense competitiveness. But the villain might now be the hero in a greater cause after his stand against the Australian government.

Ahead of the Australian Open, the first leg of the tennis Grand Slam that is set to be held in January, Australian Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke said that anyone wishing to enter the country, not just tennis players, must be “double vaccinated” to cross their border.

Djokovic fired back at the command with the same force as one of his serves, telling local Serbian media that:
I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry ... People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say -- ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it,’ they will take advantage.
It appears that Djokovic having a spine and standing up to the bullies in the Australian government paid off. Yesterday, Tennis Australia, the governing body for Tennis in the country, announced that unvaccinated players will be allowed to participate in the tournament as long as they undergo a two-week quarantine period beforehand (this course of action goes against their original plan to have all tennis players vaccinated).

Djokovic’s convicted stance against tyranny is without a doubt a major victory for unvaccinated players and it is what likely forced Tennis Australia to change course (after all, how could they afford to forgo the millions they would lose in revenue if Djokovic refused to join the tournament?). But it also speaks to a more important lesson about just how easy it can be stand up to bullies and tyrants.

Just like a right-winger to portray people trying to preserve public health as "bullies and tyrants."

But as the tournament neared and questions were raised about the medical exemption Djokovic claimed to have received, Simmons rushed to his defense again in a Jan. 5 post:

Tennis player Novak Djokovic has received a medical exemption from taking the COVID vaccine, allowing him to play in the prestigious Australian Open tournament. However, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is attempting to intimidate the star beforehand, threatening that Djokovic will be sent home if his medical exemption does not meet Australia’s standards.

Both Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews expressed that they will not be afraid to enforce their tyrannical vaccine mandates, even if that means sending the world’s best tennis player back to his native Serbia:

Simmons went on to laud Djokovic because "he has already won the fight against medical tyranny in several ways" by finagling his way into the tournament without being vaccinated" and declaring him a "rebel" fighting against the island's "draconian ways."

A Jan. 8 post by Clay Waters ranted about the New York Times' "judgmental hysteria over vaccines"in writing about Djokovic. He went on to proclaim that "As the world’s No. 1 tennis player, he’s presumably in above-average physical condition, in relatively little danger from the virus," and that "the Omicron variant is significantly less deadly than the Delta variant it is replacing." He didn't mention that Omicron is far more contagious than Delta.

Maxson used a Jan. 12 post to complain that Howard Stern argued Djokovic should be banned from tennis for not being vaccinated. Maxson retorted: "Well, guess what, Howard? Djokovic already had COVID-19. How many more times does Stern think he’ll catch it without the vaccine that needs multiple booster shots to actually finish the job and prevent COVID-19 forever?"

Simmons hyperventilated in a Jan. 14 post:

Novak Djokovic’s intense battle to have his visa approved by the Australian government took a turn for the worse when Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked the tennis star’s visa and threatened him with deportation, even though Djokovic has done nothing wrong.


So far, Djokovic’s legal team has shown that he has sufficiently met every requirement necessary for a medical exemption and even had an Australian judge say that he would be cleared to stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open (which begins Monday). So how in the world does overriding a judge’s ruling just so you can flex your power benefit anyone?

In fact, Djokovic did do something wrong: he messed up his visa paperwork, and he refuses to disclose the exact reason for his medical exemption -- and then it was revealed that Djokovic had caught COVID the month before, which had not been previously disclosed.

Rather than tell his readers those relevant facts, Simmons raged that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is someone "many rightly consider a tyrant," then praised Djokovic again as a hero against the purported hellscape that is Australia:

The result of those sacrifices has created a world in which policemen can fire rubber bullets into a crowd of protestors and get away with it and where police have the authority to separate a child from its mother. Australians are not free, the government is in full control over everyone and everything, and that’s how people like Morrison and Hawke want to keep it.

So when a high-profile, widely respected individual who is not bowing down and groveling to Australia’s vaccine tyranny steps onto the scene (potentially inspiring millions of others to stand up), it would only make sense that Australia’s officials would do what they can to not let Djokovic into their country.

Djokovic lost his appeals and was barred from playing at the Australian Open. Simmons cheered him again in a Jan. 26 post after player Daniil Medvedev said he was losing a match until he asked himself, "What would Novak do?" (Unmentioned was the fact that Medvedev did something Djokovic didn't do: he had his visa papers in order and he didn't try to deceive Australian officials.) Simmons went into full gush mode again:

It is quite comical to see that Djokovic has caused quite the stir Down Under, even when he was deported back to Serbia for “not having a legitimate enough reason” to be in Australia to compete in the Australian Open. The man is not even in the country, and he’s still living rent-free in the minds of those who are mad that he had the nerve to stand against Australia’s pervasive and restrictive vaccine mandates.

He’s even influencing the tournament despite not being in it!

But Simmons still wasn't done fawning over Djokovic, upgrading him to full-blown martyr in a Feb. 15 post:

Novak Djokovic was crucified by the media and deported by the Australian government after not providing “sufficient enough information” to receive a vaccine exemption so he could participate in the Australian Open. Despite all the trials he has had to endure because of his stance, his resolve to defy medical tyranny has not wavered.

Djokovic told the BBC that trophies are not as important to him as the freedom to choose what goes into his body. He currently sits tied for second all-time in the men’s division with Roger Federer for most Grand Slam titles won with 20, just one behind his contemporary Rafael Nadal (who won the Australian Open Djokovic was forbidden from playing in). But if he is forced to get the vaccine to pursue becoming (statistically) the greatest men’s player ever, Djokovic will not chase that illustrious achievement.


The majority of celebrities today will sacrifice any of their convictions just to roll with the flow of the political and social environment as long as it does not affect their livelihood. But Djokovic’s rigid determination is a reminder that there are still people who value freedom and their beliefs over material gain and who understand that life is more than money, trophies, and fame if you have to compromise who you are to get there.

In reality, Djokovic exposed himself as a selfish jerk who cares only about himself and not about the society in which he lives. No wonder conservatives like Simmons love the guy.

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