Lessons From The Cheap Seats: Aaron Rodgers, The News Cycle, When And What To Say, And Moving On
We are a forgiving lot with short memories and if you come clean we tend to move on.
That’s what we will see as the Aaron Rodgers “crisis” takes its next, and last turn in what was a tumultuous 10 days of rants, mistruths, positioning, outcry, opinion and crisis management.
On Sunday Rodgers will return to the field against another returning quarterback, the Seahawks Russell Wilson, and fans, broadcasters and media, will focus on what the man does best…play football. Why? Because he is COVID free…and he did at the end what he should have did at the beginning, came clean, by all accounts will pay his fine imposed by the NFL and apologized and explained his position.
And we move on.
Vaccinated vs. Immunized vs. Inoculated is where we started, minimizing damage that was pretty much self inflicted is where we ended up.
Now we are not in the inner circle of Aaron Rodgers or the Packers or his agents at Athletes First or the NFL or the NFLPA, so we don’t know who advised who on what to say and when to say it back in the summer when the Packers star QB played coy with the media when asked if he had gotten the vaccine. We also were not inside in the past weeks as Rodgers railed against the media and cancel culture and many areas of science and fed into rumors on The Pat McAfee Show and then, finally, retrenched, explained his POV and then finally, finally apologized. Whomever finally got him to the last point, kudos to them, somewhere an advisor got through.
Now as the freeze on the tundra lifts in Green Bay, the Packers lost a Sunday night game they could have won if Rodgers had played (that by the way has little to do with the crisis narrative, as many players immunized or not have missed games including the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger his week), what is clearer is another textbook case in why listening, not lying, and being honest and upfront shortens the news cycle and avoids the issues that have surfaced, even for a person whose issues with being a private person in the public eye have gone back and forth during a long and fruitful football career.
Some key observations from afar.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It: All of this could have been avoided for the long term…we have numerous other NFL athletes playing who aren’t vaccine advocates, if the whole “Immunized” vs. “Vaccinated” issue did not happen in the first place. Playing coy and “waiting” for someone to ask another question was wrong, and it came back to bite the team, the league and the individual down the road.
Rodgers Did Not Break Any Laws: What happened was regrettable, and the stance taken in the way it was taken does feed into controversial issues that could damage public health stances at such a critical time when we hopefully, are getting back to normal. Rodgers, like it or not, is a highly influential figure and what he says and does matters. Can’t get around that in any way. All that being said, we have forgiven, and embraced, much more egregious behavior with athletes, celebrities and others who are in the public eye, so to say this damage is irreparable, especially, given his retrenchment this week, is really short sighted.
State Farm won a tough battle. Rodgers biggest backer, State Farm, played the middle and did really well. They were fast enough to see where things were going, issued a statement of support for the person as an ambassador and not for his initial words and thoughts, did all the right things in NOT running Rodgers ads last week, and came out the other side pretty much unscathed with a message that was very smart…we listened, we acted, we moved on and our brand is bigger than one person.
Prevea Healthcare Loses A Tough One…For Now. Unlike State Farm, you probably can’t be a medical company supporting someone who railed against science, even for a short term. That’s why Prevea Healthcare being the only brand to publicly cut ties with Rodgers early on made sense. Now does that mean that can’t be repaired or replaced down the line? No. But the company could not afford to have such a controversial statement counter to their core business, so it made sense.
All his other partners went silent, and probably rode it out. A story in the Green Bay Press Gazette went looking for all of Rodgers other, smaller partners, none of which are as deeply ingrained in media as State Farm, and most were silent and probably will survive the melee should things stay on the path to relative normalcy. Staying above the fray and letting the news cycle play out, especially when Rodgers finally clarified and retrenched a bit, worked out well for them.
In the future: Let’s also remember that Aaron Rodgers is not one to embrace the public eye like many others. He is selective in his brand partnerships and his public appearances and is not exactly the media friendly guy. Never has been. He picks his spots. So to say that his brand image is damaged might be true for now, but we are in the midst of an NFL season, so no one is building campaigns right now around a key NFL star anywhere. If we get to Super Bowl and the offseason let’s see where things are then. Does he need to do more deals at this stage of his career? No. Will he? Who knows? Some conservative brands who may have been on the fence may back off, but we do have short memories and when handled well, it’s amazing what can be overcome.
And lets not forget another unforeseen probably winner in this 12 days if tumult: The NFL. Now a game which would have had a big viewership number will have even bigger numbers as BOTH QB’s return to the field, and the focus on the game. By listening, delivering fines, and moving on, the NFL found a way to speak, stand and deliver, and now gets the benefit, assuming there are no more irons thrown into a controversial fire, of letting the product tell the story on the field.
We are a forgiving lot, and while the actions and words of a Packers star raised eyebrows and conversation, we move on with what will probably be a footnote, a notable one but a corrected footnote, to history, sports business style. Much of which could have been avoided with the simple truth months ago.