Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Aaron Rodgers Steps on the Third Rail

By Anthony Brancato

When Vikings running back Robert Smith retired in 2001 at the age of 29 after playing and starting all 18 games, including playoffs, in 2000 (which would appear to rule out injury as a factor in his decision to retire), he cited as the main reason for his premature departure from pro football the hyper-religious culture in the locker room (Smith denies that he is an atheist, choosing instead to hide behind the weasel term "agnostic").

Fifteen years later, another high-profile running back, Arian Foster, also retired after an eight-year career, the first seven with the Texans, after "confessing" to ESPN's Tim Keown that he is a flat-out atheist (interestingly, Foster had been raised Muslim — his mother was raised Catholic, converted to Islam when she grew up, and now claims to be an agnostic).

But now a quarterback, and a white quarterback at that, has stepped on this same third rail — and it has a much higher voltage than when Smith or even Foster stepped on it.

In a podcast with his girlfriend Danica Patrick in tow last month, Rodgers announced that he has rejected Christianity, on the grounds that any god who would burn billions of people in a fiery hell for all eternity cannot possibly be "moral" (a while back, Rodgers claimed to have found a Jewish ancestor from about 200 years ago using one of those websites that specializes in this sort of thing).

Further elaborating on his non-believing stance, Rodgers denounced Christianity for promoting the dichotomy, which he dismisses as false, of "heaven and hell, enlightened and heathen, holy and righteous and sinner and filthy."

After having gone through an extremely similar controversy with Colin Kaepernick, this is the last thing the NFL needs at this point — especially with a new collective bargaining agreement that the owners hope will yield a longer regular season in play. Of course it could have been worse — the Packers could have made it to the Super Bowl, in which case we would have been bombarded with this story nonstop for two weeks (another good reason for getting rid of the week off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl).

And what will happen to Rodgers' gig with State Farm? With the NFL as intertwined with religion as it is with perceived patriotism, as Kaepernick found out, greatly to his detriment, The Other A-Rod's days as a State Farm spokesman could very well be numbered — after, of course, the obligatory boycott threats from the hallowed rich, old, white demographic that also buys a vastly inordinate number of the season tickets and NFL Season Ticket subscriptions.

But how's this for irony? For a time, when he was a kid, the Rodgers family resided in Beaverton, Oregon — where Nike just happens to be headquartered (sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, huh?).

Could we see Aaron Rodgers get hired by Nike as a pitch man — thereby cementing Nike as the brand of choice of the political left?

William Saroyan said that nothing isn't allegorical. Well in today's America, nothing isn't political.

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