Jeff Pash and Mark Murphy must be pretty good friends.
That’s the conclusion some in the league are reaching after the NFL boiled multiple blatant and ongoing violations of the COVID protocol down to a single $14,650 fine for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and $300,000 for the team, a publicly-held corporation that can simply tuck the punishment onto one of the lines in the balance sheet, without it ever really hurting any one person.
Rodgers repeatedly violated COVID protocols by not wearing a mask during press conferences in the facility; the NFL now admits that. But the league claims the Packers should have been enforcing the protocols, and the league refuses to regard multiple violations as “repeat” violations. The Packers never fined Rodgers for the violations, and it presumably won’t do it now.
As one source put it on Tuesday night, “That’s bullshit.” If, for example, someone engages in shoplifting twice a week every week for eight weeks, the person has committed 16 violations of the shoplifting laws. There should be 16 penalties.
Rodgers, however, got one penalty — for attending the team’s Halloween party. And the prior violations will go unpunished. Given that multiple teams faced multiple punishments last year (the Saints eventually lost a 2022 sixth-round draft pick), it comes off as favoritism for the Packers.
It’s also potentially an effort by the league to brush under the rug that fact that it knew or should have known that Rodgers repeatedly was violating the press-conference mask protocol and doing nothing about it. Ultimately, it became an issue only because he tested positive for COVID, and his true status came to light.
The league insists that the team has the primary obligation to enforce the COVID protocols. The COVID protocols aren’t nearly that specific; the league has the power to do it, too. As evidenced by the fact that the league, not the team, fined Rodgers for attending the Halloween party.
What if he hadn’t tested positive at all in 2021? He would have violated protocol a couple of times per week, every single week, and nothing ever would have been done about it.
Other teams don’t benefit from that kind of lenience. Thus, other teams are pissed about what has happened. And they should be.