Aaron Rodgers’ Hard Pass on Censorship

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  • 03/02/2023

It is often said that sports can provide life lessons.  Having played travel baseball and high school football, I can attest to the statement’s truth.  The ability to overcome adversity, to stretch oneself beyond perceived limits, to win with humility and lose with dignity – all lessons, sometimes welcomed and sometimes not, but nonetheless inculcated if, admittedly, not always followed throughout my life.

Yes, I deem the National Football League’s politics the same way I do those of the entertainment industry: the performative product for public consumption by cynical corporatists trying to deflect from their greedy and unsavory business practices.  Such is their right.  Thus, as a Rock-n-Roll guitar player, one quickly learns to separate the art produced from the artist’s politics.  I won’t stop playing “Gimme Shelter” because Mick Jagger supports masks (though not at the Detroit show), any more than I would stop playing “Brown Sugar” because some self-anointed, self-promoting white savior wants to censor it.  In sum, even if the producers of art and sports refuse to depoliticize them for the sake of their audience, as a member of the audience I am free to ignore their message and act accordingly.  And I do so without ever demanding they be censored.

This made me all the more unprepared for how one recent sports moment reinforced an existing life lesson and changed what I once considered an immutable perception.  

As one of the myriad of masochistic Detroit Lions fans, I possessed an abject contempt for Green Bay’s one day Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.  Twice a year, he would effortlessly slay my plodding gridiron kitties, leaving us in the ruins of another lost season and failed rebuild.  That in 2005 the Lions could have drafted Rodgers and passed on him to take USC wide receiver Michael Williams (then later taking Connecticut QB Dan Orlovosky in the 5th round) only made the situation more galling.  Like the vast majority of pro athletes and entertainers, I had absolutely no interest in anything Rodgers had to say – unless it was “I’m retiring.”

Then, per Fox News, Rodgers told ESPN the following:

“‘When in the course of human history has the side that's doing the censoring and trying to shut people up and make them show papers and marginalize a part of the community ever been [the correct side]?’ the quarterback told the outlet.  ‘We're censoring dissenting opinions?  What are we trying to do?  Save people from being able to determine the validity on their own or to listen and to think about things and come to their own conclusion?  Freedom of speech is dangerous now if it doesn't align with the mainstream narrative?  That's, I think first and foremost, what I wanted people to understand, and what people should understand is that there's censorship in this country going on right now.’”

“‘Are they censoring terrorists or pedophiles?  Criminals who have Twitter profiles?  No, they're censoring people, and they're shadow-banning people who have dissenting opinions about vaccines…  [I]f you want to be an open-minded person, you should hear both sides…  I read stuff on the vaccine-hesitancy side, and I read stuff on the vaccines-are-the-greatest-thing-in-the-world side.’”

“He added that it didn’t ‘make sense’ to him to censor everyone who questions the so-called ‘mainstream narrative.’”

Crucially, Rodgers’s statements reveal his opposition to censorship is premised not merely on the possibility it may personally affect him.  He supports free speech and gives a hard pass to censorship because he has faith in the ability of his fellow human beings to make their own decisions.  

In our politically polarized world, based upon his belief too many will mistakenly ascribe an ideology or a side of the aisle to Rodgers, who disdains being so pigeonholed.  I abide, and further admit I no longer revile but now respect Rodgers.  He has recognized and respected my right to make my own decisions; to speak freely; and to my freedom of conscience – just as I recognize and respect his and everyone’s rights to the same.

For that, I thank Aaron Rodgers; and wish him (some) success as he continues on the road to Canton and a gold jacket – though, hopefully, he will now do so outside the NFC North Division.

As he describes himself:  The product of a misspent youth, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) is a guitarist, author, occasional radio co-host, and recovering politician.  He is a former U.S. Congressman from Michigan having represented that state’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012.

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