Aaron Rodgers and a VP bid that by no means was: ‘That will’ve been actually fascinating’


OAKLAND The quarterback wasn’t there. No point out of his identify throughout two hours. Possibly there was no want.

The mere prospect of a pairing had already served its function — driving information cycles, stirring hypothesis, drumming up intrigue round a longshot bid for the White Home by an outsider intent on defying political norms. However Aaron Rodgers operating for Vice President of the US?

This not solely defied political norms, it strained credulity.

It was all however inconceivable to check Rodgers balancing the trials of his day job as quarterback of the New York Jets with a high-stakes political marketing campaign, significantly this fall, when the center of the NFL’s common season collides immediately with Election Day. Nonetheless, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., unbiased candidate for president and a member of America’s most well-known political household, insisted earlier this month that Rodgers, a good friend of his, was amongst these on the prime of his record of potential operating mates.

Rodgers by no means publicly denied or dismissed his candidacy — he “welcomed the overture,” in line with The New York Occasions — furthering, for a couple of days no less than, the notion {that a} 40-year-old NFL quarterback and future Professional Soccer Corridor of Famer may take a break from shouldering the hopes of the Jets’ season to journey throughout the nation and marketing campaign, meet with voters and maybe even take part in a vice presidential debate. Or, by some means, do each concurrently.

The prospect of a Kennedy-Rodgers ticket — scant because it was from the start — was formally put to relaxation Tuesday in Oakland, the place Kennedy named lawyer and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan his operating mate. Shanahan, previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is a brand new face within the political enviornment. She not too long ago offered $4 million to assist pay for a Kennedy advert that aired throughout the Tremendous Bowl.

Rodgers match the mould Kennedy was looking for out. “Our attraction is to younger individuals,” Kennedy mentioned in a latest interview, and Rodgers “is battle-tested as a result of he’s been hammered by the press” for his “skepticism in the direction of authority.”

It’s debatable how a lot juice Rodgers would have added to Kennedy’s candidacy. In a couple of quick years, he’s turn into among the many most polarizing figures in sports activities, and even a few of Kennedy’s most ardent backers, a few of whom shuffled into the Henry J. Kaiser Middle for the Arts on Tuesday for the announcement, weren’t shopping for the notion that Rodgers was ever a severe candidate for VP.

“A publicity stunt,” Zack Nelson referred to as it. The 26-year-old enterprise proprietor from Seattle flew down for the occasion and mentioned he has donated closely to Kennedy’s marketing campaign, citing Kennedy’s embrace of cryptocurrency. “All you need to do is say ‘Aaron Rodgers is likely to be our VP’ and other people will chunk,” Nelson continued. “I feel it was a very good PR play to get consideration. And it labored.”

From a close-by seat, Ryan Sarnataro, a 72-year-old who drove 85 miles in from Santa Cruz Tuesday, mentioned the potential of Rodgers becoming a member of the ticket left him wholly unimpressed. “I’m not loopy about individuals with no {qualifications} being a heartbeat from the presidency,” he mentioned.

Journey Derham, a local New Yorker, by no means took it significantly. “Didn’t imagine it,” he mentioned. “It’d simply be quite a bit. It’d throw a lot confusion into the race.”

Some, like Nicole Fuller, a lifelong Bay Space resident, appeared shocked to be taught that Rodgers was even a candidate for the job. “I didn’t know he was being thought-about — I had no clue,” she mentioned. “However perhaps he would’ve introduced in that in style really feel to this, nearly like Taylor Swift? We would want it. We’re type of hoping for a miracle right here.”

A supporter cheers throughout Robert F. Kennedy’s occasion saying Nicole Shanahan as his operating mate on Tuesday. (Josh Edelson / AFP by way of Getty Photographs)

Sue Peters, a neuroscientist from New York who flew in for Tuesday’s announcement, held no reservations about any of Kennedy’s potential operating mates, together with Rodgers. “I belief (Kennedy),” she mentioned. “I felt like (former president Donald) Trump broke the mould and opened the trail for Bobby to run for president as somebody who doesn’t have a historical past in politics. I don’t suppose a vice chairman must have a historical past in politics, both.”

One Kennedy backer — who admitted he was new to politics — snuck away from his spot backstage earlier than the announcement to seize a couple of “KENNEDY 24” hats within the foyer. For a couple of moments, he stood and scanned the life-sized murals that embellished the doorway, a collage of images spanning Kennedy’s life. One confirmed the candidate, perhaps 4 or 5 years outdated, cradled in his father’s arms. Earlier than Tuesday, Metta World Peace (previously Ron Artest) didn’t know Robert F. Kennedy Sr. was making his personal presidential run when he was assassinated in 1968.

Like Rodgers, the 20-year NBA veteran and former champ has turn into pleasant with Kennedy over the previous yr. He flew in from Los Angeles Tuesday morning to indicate his assist, talking thrice on the podium, revving up the gang earlier than Kennedy and Shanahan took the stage.

Requested about Rodgers, whom he doesn’t know personally, World Peace weighed the potential for knowledgeable athlete operating for vice chairman throughout the center of a season. “Man, that will’ve been actually fascinating,” he lastly mentioned. “And actually cool.”

How did we get right here, a world during which a star-quarterback-turned-part-time-provocateur finally ends up on the VP shortlist of a candidate who occurs to be John F. Kennedy’s nephew?

One thing has shifted for Rodgers over the previous few years, no less than publicly: he’s misplaced curiosity in biting his tongue or in providing up the canned soundbites so {many professional} athletes — particularly franchise quarterbacks — lean on when pressed in entrance of microphones or cameras. The way in which Rodgers has put it: he merely grew uninterested in sitting again, staying quiet and permitting others to form the narrative round him.

He wished his say.

Rodgers has repeatedly courted controversy — at occasions seemingly welcoming, even relishing the firestorm that ensues; in different moments rising annoyed at how he believes he’s being portrayed. He’s dabbled in conspiracy theories on “The Pat McAfee Present,” a comfortable pulpit the place Rodgers is aware of he gained’t be challenged by the hosts.

Not even when, as occurred in January, Rodgers falsely alleged that TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s identify may very well be amongst these revealed in court docket paperwork linked to convicted intercourse trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Kimmel threatened to sue. Rodgers tried to stroll again the feedback however by no means apologized.

“I’m not calling him (a pedophile) and neither must you,” Rodgers mentioned on McAfee’s present later. “Let me make that crystal clear. I don’t take any pleasure or pleasure out of anyone doing that. So don’t do this in my identify. Don’t do this in any respect. These are severe accusations meant for people who find themselves on that record.”

He not too long ago went on X to deny a CNN report that he had shared conspiracy theories concerning the Sandy Hook bloodbath, his solely public feedback since he was reported as a possible operating mate of Kennedy’s, whom he’s mentioned he’ll assist this fall if Kennedy reaches the poll. Like Kennedy, Rodgers has repeatedly expressed a skepticism towards vaccines, at one level mocking Travis Kelce as “Mr. Pfizer” after the Chiefs All-Professional tight finish starred in a industrial advocating for COVID and flu vaccines. Rodgers later challenged Kelce and Dr. Anthony Fauci to hitch him and Kennedy for a debate on the subject.

Rodgers misled reporters about his personal vaccine standing earlier than the 2020 season and later examined constructive for COVID. He was fined by the Packers for not following league protocols. “I understand I’m within the crosshairs of the woke mob proper now,” he mentioned on McAfee’s present quickly thereafter, “so earlier than my remaining nail will get put in my cancel tradition casket, I feel I wish to set the file straight on so most of the blatant lies which can be on the market about someone who’s a vital thinker.”

It’s what Rodgers usually calls himself.

“I’m not, you already know, some kind of anti-vax flat-earther,” he advised McAfee in 2020. “I’m someone who’s a vital thinker.”

Rodgers has mentioned his outspokenness has price him buddies, teammates and sponsors. Turbulence has trailed him like a shadow, each on the sphere and off. There was his messy, years-long divorce with the Packers final spring, which led him to New York, the place he was welcomed as a savior. His first season with the Jets ended within the first quarter of the primary recreation. The workforce stumbled.



Aaron Rodgers, Robert Saleh and the way the Jets’ season fell aside: ‘One thing has to vary’

On a latest look on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Rodgers identified that he’s “much less revered now” than he was a couple of years in the past. The dialog then shifted again to the COVID controversy. “You stand for one thing, you stand courageously for what you imagine in, or the other facet of that’s saying nothing and being a coward,” Rodgers mentioned. “I wasn’t prepared to try this.

“I don’t need what I went via to get brushed over,” he continued. “Additionally, I don’t give a f—. I’ve been capable of make a ton of cash enjoying a sport I’m actually good at, and I’m grateful for that. I’ve a platform. Some individuals need you to close up and throw a soccer, and that’s high-quality, however I feel there needs to be a sure voice of purpose …”

That’s what attracted Kennedy to Rodgers within the first place.

“Aaron Rodgers’ intuition to decide on service to others over his personal monetary curiosity, his dedication to America’s bodily and psychological well being, his work to legalize therapies of veterans and trauma survivors with psychedelic therapies, and his constant file of holding the braveness of his convictions encourage and transfer me,” Amaryllis Fox, Kennedy’s marketing campaign supervisor, wrote on X earlier this month.

Becoming, then, that when The New York Occasions broke the story that he was amongst Kennedy’s prime decisions for VP, Rodgers was in Costa Rica on his annual ayahuasca retreat.

There’s no proof the Jets knew this was a risk. One can solely think about how swiftly jaws hit the ground within the workforce’s facility when “Rodgers being thought-about for Kennedy’s VP decide” scrolled throughout the ticker. At this week’s NFL league conferences in Orlando — earlier than Kennedy formally dominated Rodgers out by naming Shanahan his operating mate — the workforce’s prime executives appeared to downplay the chance that their star quarterback was contemplating a short-term, longshot enterprise into politics.

“I didn’t take (it) very significantly,” normal supervisor Joe Douglas mentioned.

Did Rodgers attain out to the workforce in any respect, informing them that he and Kennedy have spoken?

“He didn’t must,” coach Robert Saleh mentioned.

Soccer, then. Douglas has spent the majority of his offseason capital shoring up the Jets’ leaky offensive line, which, partially, led to Rodgers’ premature Achilles harm final September. “I hope he appears like he has some candidates for Director of Homeland Safety (and) Secretary of the Protection now that we’ve fortified the o-line,” the GM joked.

Rodgers, proprietor Woody Johnson professed, is “roaring to go,” and is on schedule to return.

That’s good for the Jets. They’ve dodged one distraction. However understanding this quarterback, extra are on the best way.

Zack Rosenblatt contributed to this report.

(Photograph of Rodgers: Ryan Kang / Getty Photographs)


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