When we posted on Sunday the item regarding video from WBAY-TV showing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers breezing by a breast cancer patient hopeful that he’d sign her hat, we knew there would be a reaction.
Packers fans, basking in the franchise’s biggest win since Brett Favre left town, have no interest in any criticism of their new green-and-golden boy. It’s obvious. It’s predictable. And we don’t blame them for being protective of their star quarterback.
After all, plenty of fans of other teams blindly have defended far, far worse behavior by their star quarterbacks. (The Falcons circa 2007 and the Steelers circa 2010 come to mind.) Rodgers, as we admitted on Sunday, was fully within his rights to not acknowledge the existence of Jan Cavanaugh while walking through the airport as the team either was heading to or returning from Atlanta. And we had every right to react to the video, as harvested, edited, and presented by WBAY, by opining that Rodgers was acting like an ass.
Since the item surfaced here and at Deadspin, a litany of excuses and clarifications has emerged on Rodgers’ behalf. For some bloggers inclined either to pander to Packers fans or to settle old scores with (or possibly, to gain some traffic by sparking a public fight), the caught-on-film conduct of Rodgers has been overlooked or minimized in favor of attacks against those who dared to point out what the video obviously shows — Rodgers walking past Jan Cavanaugh as if she didn’t exist.
How strong is the desire to defend Rodgers from criticism? We’ve even been accused of running a payola ring, trading favorable coverage of players for cash. Yes, at least one man with a cheesehead fashioned from tin foil suggests that we have funded PFT by illegally taking money from agents to say nice things about their clients, and to say bad things about the clients of their competitors. (For the benefit of those who will be inclined to think it’s true unless we dignify the delusion with a denial, the accusation is completely untrue.)
Actually, it was against our interests to post the story criticizing Rodgers, since we had submitted a request on Sunday for a Packers player to appear this week on PFT Live. We’ve got a feeling that, for perhaps the same reason WBAY so quickly deleted the video, our request will be denied.
It doesn’t matter whether it was Rodgers or any other player. Whoever walked by Jan Cavanaugh like she wasn’t even there was going to get reamed on the pages of PFT, because I believe that cancer patients deserve the highest level of respect and deference that can be provided.
Anyone whose life has been touched by the disease knows what I mean. We all can see in Jan Cavanaugh the mother or sister or aunt or friend or neighbor who has had to confront a silent killer that could kill — and, frankly, eventually will kill — many of the people reading these words. (For those of you who make it to 45 without getting cancer, that’s probably about the time you’ll start worrying from time to time about all the different organs in your body, and your spouse’s body, that eventually could be infested with it.)
This, in the lull between a boring Seahawks-Bears game and the start of the Jets-Patriots game the WBAY report, forwarded to us by multiple readers, struck a nerve with me.
So what of the follow-up report from WBAY, which likely has spent much of the past 24 hours apologizing to angry viewers for depicting Rodgers in a negative light and simultaneously applying lips to the buttocks of anyone and everyone in the Packers organization, that Rodgers signed a jersey the week before for Cavanaugh? Apparently, some of you think that makes his decision to walk past her without a nod or a smile or anything else fine and dandy.
If anything, this familiarity tends to reinforce the notion that Rodgers knew or should have known that Cavanaugh has cancer, making his failure to offer a friendly nod or a wave or a quick “not today, maybe next time” while she waited for him to sign her hat even more strange.
Many Packers fans have pointed out all the charitable things that Rodgers has done over the years. He deserves credit for that. And so allow us publicly to declare, “Attaboy.”
Folks who frequent this site on a regular basis know that we aren’t terribly impressed by the things athletes do while the world is watching. As one high-level executive with a team other than the Packers (and not an NFC North rival) observed in response the WBAY video, what we do when tired, cranky, busy, etc. reveals more about our true character than what we do when attending a charitable event arranged through the team and/or handlers.
As to the argument that Rodgers was wearing ear buds and thus not paying attention to his surroundings, that excuse doesn’t cut it as to anyone who is over the age 0f 15. Rodgers knows that fans gather in that airport when the Packers come and go. Choosing to remain in his own little world isn’t the way to interact with those whose interest in football helps pay Rodgers’ salary. (Which was the real point of our first story on the matter.)
As to the idea that Rodgers was just focused on the task at hand, the Packers were flying to Atlanta, not walking into the Georgia Dome.
As to the idea that Jan Cavanaugh wasn’t bothered by Rodgers’ decision to snub her, that’s her prerogative. And we respect her for it. She’s a Packers fan, she lives in the area, she wants to see the team do well, and she’s got bigger things in her life to worry about than whether Aaron Rodgers will give her the time of day.
Bottom line? As we said last night on Twitter, nothing said or argued or reported since we first posted the item changes for us the image of Rodgers ignoring Jan Cavanaugh. But if it will make Packers fans feel better to complain about our coverage of the incident instead of acknowledging (as a few grudgingly have done) that Rodgers handled the situation poorly, nothing we can say or argue or report will change that.
UPDATE: After another 24 hours or so, I calmed down and saw the light. Here’s the true last word — our apology to Aaron Rodgers, Packers fans, and Jan Cavanaugh.