(Reuters) – Three-time National Football League (NFL) MVP Aaron Rodgers admitted on Tuesday that he had misled people about his COVID-19 vaccination status, having previously insisted that he had not lied about whether his had been immunized against the virus.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback, who is unvaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and received widespread criticism for telling reporters in August that he was “immunized” when asked if he had been vaccinated.
Days after he tested positive, the former Super Bowl champion defiantly told “The Pat McAfee Show” that he had not lied, but returned to the program on Tuesday to clarify his comments.
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing I get it and I misled some people about my status which I take full responsibility of,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers, who was forced to sit out the Packers’ Sunday loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on the COVID-19/reserve list, was dropped by sponsor Prevea Health over the weekend.
His remarks last week sparked outrage from across the sports world, with basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accusing him of damaging professional sports.
“I have to stay true to who I am,” Rodgers said. “I stand behind the things that I said and I have a ton of empathy for people who have been going through the worst part of this pandemic, which has affected all of us in different ways.”
Rodgers is facing possible fines for violating league protocol in regard to the novel coronavirus, including failing to wear a mask at press conferences, which is required of all unvaccinated players. He is not facing suspension.
“People are entitled to their opinion, even if it’s an opinion that’s unfavorable of me,” said Rodgers, who expects to go back to the team facility on Saturday.
The NFL distributed updated COVID-19 protocols to clubs on Tuesday, developed by medical personnel from both the league and the NFL Players Association.
Among the rules outlined, fully vaccinated players and coaches must undergo “re-entry” testing after three or more days off. The document also reiterated that unvaccinated players must wear masks indoors.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Pritha Sarkar)