Controversial remarks | Aaron Rodgers doesn’t just think about football. Far from there.

Aaron Rodgers, perhaps the most gifted quarterback of his generation, spent a week in March in Costa Rica with a few other NFL players seeking spiritual transformation.


Posted at 1:02 a.m.

Updated at 6:00 a.m.

In a mountainside refuge with a view of the Pacific, they drank a psychedelic potion under the eye of a shaman from the Yawanawa tribe and the camera of a documentarian.

But news from the United States – then another – disturbed the mood. First, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, said he was considering Rodgers as his running mate (this did not materialize).

Then, CNN revealed that Rodgers had suggested in 2013 that the massacre of 20 schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a hoax or orchestrated by the government. Rodgers responded to X, writing that he “never felt that this event did not take place.”

It’s unusual for an NFL star to sip ayahuasca — a hallucinogenic concoction — in Central America while flirting with a vice-presidential run and denying he’s a conspiracy theorist.

At least, it’s not what New York Jets fans imagined when Rodgers arrived last year as the savior of this moribund team.

In football, fans generally want uncomplicated sports heroes. Basically, that’s what they have in Aaron Rodgers: a Super Bowl win with the Green Bay Packers; four NFL MVP awards; a collection of famous companions; lots of advertising contracts with big brands.

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PHOTO KIRK IRWIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Aaron Rodgers arrived as a savior with the New York Jets at the start of last season.

Rodgers was ideally suited to play the character of the star quarterback resurrecting an iconic team in the country’s largest media market. The kind of story that helped make the NFL the biggest sports league in the United States.

Anti-system ideology

But since his arrival at the Jets, Rodgers has especially distinguished himself off the field by becoming a sort of anti-system ideologue. At 40, he is one of the most famous stars in the NFL, and arguably the most eccentric.

Rodgers runs podcasts, where he promotes Kennedy’s candidacy, denounces the COVID-19 vaccine and extols psychedelic virtues.

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SCREENSHOT PROVIDED BY THE PAT MCAFEE SHOW, ARCHIVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

Aaron Rodgers (center) shared his thoughts on vaccines during former punter and wrestling commentator Pat McAfee’s (left) podcast show.

He urges his listeners to question the motivations of political leaders and press bosses, suggesting that those in power are in cahoots with big pharmaceutical companies.

“The media system is compromised, the health system is compromised and the education system is compromised,” he said on February 16 during the program The Joe Rogan Experiencethe most popular podcast on Spotify.

If the Jets are embarrassed by his public adventures, they don’t show it. For them, Rodgers remains the team’s hope, even though he ruptured his Achilles tendon on the fourth play of his first game last fall and missed the entire season.

But some fans would like Rodgers to shut up and play.

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PHOTO MARY HOLT, THE NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVES

Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks of his generation and was the undisputed leader of the Green Bay Packers.

According to John Marchese, who lives in New Jersey, “taking very categorical positions on divisive issues” could be a way to prepare for a post-NFL political career. “But as a football fan, I’m interested in football and I want Aaron Rodgers to focus on football. His talent is undeniable. »

Psychedelics

Rodgers’ newest hobby is participating in “herbal medicine” ceremonies. He protests against the use of the word “drug” to describe these psychedelic substances believed to induce emotional and spiritual experiences. He says ayahuasca helped him overcome 30-year-old fears.

Many people find Rodgers’ behavior disconcerting. “When athletes go from glory to infamy, it’s by accident, not by choice,” says Dan Le Batard, who hosts a sports podcast. “Quarterbacks, in particular, are cautious in their public statements and actions. » An established quarterback openly falling into conspiracy is unheard of, says Dan Le Batard, a choice all the more surprising given that Rodgers had built up an image of reliability so reassuring that a company of insurance had hired him as an advertising spokesperson: “a gold mine” for an athlete, underlines the former sports columnist at Miami Herald.

Professional athletes focus on their sport full time. Rodgers, who is paid $35 million a year, has intense personal passions.

After his injury, during his eight-hour daily rehabilitation sessions, Rodgers began talking with Kennedy about his election campaign. They have affinities, particularly with regard to the anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

“If he gets elected, in my opinion, that’s the beginning of hope,” Rodgers told Joe Rogan in February. In March, Kennedy named him as a potential vice presidential running mate, rattling Jets fans.

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PHOTO RICHARD VOGEL, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had raised the possibility of taking Aaron Rodgers as his running mate.

Some of Rodgers’ companions in Costa Rica knew about it but paid little attention to it, said Jeramy Poyer, the brother of Miami Dolphins safety Jordan Poyer. The group continued their spiritual quest by spending two hours in an unventilated teepee, heated to 40°C to induce a feeling of enlightenment.

On their final evening, they gathered to drink ayahuasca, which is believed to cause euphoria, hallucinations, and treatment for depression and trauma that can lead to lasting inner peace.

Chicago Bears safety Adrian Colbert said the ceremonies helped him understand that “emotional healing is frowned upon, especially among men.” But vulnerability is power.” He added: “I felt my heart explode and I felt so much love. I couldn’t help but cry. »

A few people played bongos and guitars while the group ventured out into the grass and gazed at the stars.

Poyer said Rodgers told him it was “one of the best nights of his life.”

This article was originally published in the New York Times.

Read the original article from New York Times (in English, subscription required)

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