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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Who does the $300,000 fine of the Packers actually punish?

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A day after the NFL gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers financial slaps on the wrist for multiple blatant COVID protocol violations, plenty of people with other teams remain confused and disillusioned by the league’s handling of the situation. They believe that the NFL has different standards, with teams that some in the league office don’t like getting targeted for aggressive investigation and enforcement and others getting treated with kid gloves.

In the case of the Packers, it’s fair to ask this simple question. Who if anyone does the $300,000 fine levied by the league punish?

They’re publicly owned. The money isn’t coming out of anyone’s pocket. No single person will make a single penny less in income as a result of the fine imposed against the organization. It will come ultimately from profits that get reinvested in the team, since there’s no owner to siphon the profits for personal use.

As business expenses go, it wasn’t a bad one. Given the tenuous nature of their relationship with Rodgers, the Packers were able to avoid inflaming the situation by not forcing him to wear a mask during press conferences or fining him for failing to do so, all for the low price (relatively speaking) of $300,000. Given what proper persistence and enforcement would have potentially done to the fragile truce between franchise and franchise quarterback, it was money well spent.

Which means it’s not a real punishment, and that the only true punishment comes from removing a draft pick or two. The Packers deliberately, consciously, and repeatedly allowed an unvaccinated player to behave as if he were vaccinated. And the league deliberately, consciously, and repeatedly stood back and let it all happen. As previously noted, if Rodgers had never tested positive, none of this ever would have come to light — and no one ever would have been disciplined.

There’s a troubling element to the failure of the Packers and the league to take action regarding Rodgers. They knew he was secretly unvaccinated, but they let him behave in the public eye as if he were vaccinated. The reporters in the press room thought the maskless quarterback was vaccinated, because he created the unmistakable impression that he was.

Opponents who approached him after games had reason to believe he was vaccinated, too. As one source explained it today, opponents of the Vikings and Colts have known all year to keep their distance from Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz, respectively, after games if they’re concerned about the possibility that unvaccinated opponents may have COVID and could shedding more virus than vaccinated players would send into the air. With Rodgers, there was no reason to think anyone should tread lightly when close to him, because he behaved as if he was vaccinated.

That dynamic, coupled with the league’s time-honored shifting standards have left many upset and disappointed by the NFL’s decision to impose limited punishment on Rodgers and the Packers for an extended pattern of violations that happened intentionally and deliberately. Rodgers ultimately received the standard fine for one single violation, even though he had many. And the Packers will just slide some money around in the QuickBooks program, not even flinching at the the $300,000 involuntary donation to the charity of the NFL’s choice.


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