ESPN paid $85 million to air Aaron Rodgers conspiracy theories | Aaron Rodgers

Just like Aaron Rodgers, as he drops back to pass, scanning the world around him and seeing enemies everywhere. For the past four years, The Pat McAfee Show has been a streaming sensation that recently found a home on ESPNhas given the New York Jets quarterback a forum to settle scores and select other targets – not least his grudge against Jimmy Kimmel.

Rodgers’ three-year feud with Kimmel – which began with the talk show host blasting Rodgers, a die-hard vaccine skeptic, after he tested positive for Covid – reached a disturbing tipping point last week when Rodgers appeared on McAfee’s show and suggested the Comedian is “nervous” about connection to Jeffrey Epstein. The quarterback promised to “pop a bottle of something” if Kimmel’s name appeared in recently released documents related to the disgraced financier.

That led to Kimmel responding to He then hammered Rodgers on his late-night chat show a seven minute monologue that portrayed Rodgers as a special case of a stupid athlete. “Aaron had two As on his report card, and both were in the word ‘Aaron,'” Kimmel sneered.

On Tuesday, Rodgers appeared on the McAfee show and unloaded both barrels. He shrugged off the Kimmel broadside (“I find it impressive that a man who went to Arizona State and writes ten jokes can read a prompter”) and claimed he had been misunderstood (“I’m not calling him ( a pedophile)”). ). From then on things went uphill quickly.

Rodgers returned to old grievances. He took to his rants against mask mandates, federal vaccine mandates and the “pharmaceutical-industrial complex” — a hellish phrase for sports television. He touted alternative treatments for Covid, questioned the safety of vaccines, vilified US pandemic response czar Anthony Fauci as “one of the biggest spreaders of misinformation” (ignoring his own efforts) and recommended a takedown tape for viewers to read about the doctor of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well-known conspiracy theorist. All the while, Rodgers humbly boasted about his love of reading as if he were the first person to discover books, and raged against the small-minded who would rather seek medical advice from experts than sip ayahuasca on “darkness” retreats. Meanwhile, none of Rodgers’ takes – which ranged from bizarre to dangerous – seemed to appeal to many of McAfee’s viewers. “This guy is damn exhausting with his nonsense,” snorted one X user.

Still, Rodgers carried on. He dismissed sportswriters as beneath him, derided as a clickbait farm and took swipes at ESPN executive Mike Foss, who last week called Rodgers’ Epstein attack on Kimmel a “stupid and factually inaccurate joke.”

“I don’t even know who that is,” Rodgers said of Foss on Tuesday. “I don’t work for you, Mike!”

That ESPN would allow one of the NFL’s most prominent faces to go full-on QAnon for nearly half an hour — peppering the day’s programming with F-bombs that the censor in charge of the beeper missed — seems like a significant departure for a network to be the one that once punished employees harshly for not always sticking to the sport. But The Pat McAfee Show differs from any other ESPN production with its relaxed dress code and language standards. “The opinions expressed on this show do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of your colleagues, your boss or ESPN,” the show’s disclaimer reads, a new wrinkle for ESPN. “There may be a few swear words, because that’s how people talk in the real world… PS: Don’t sue us.”

McAfee is a former NFL player who played alongside Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and is widely admired for his lack of filters. His dry sidekick, former linebacker AJ Hawk, won a Super Bowl with Rodgers in Green Bay. Neither the show’s jock stars nor its Greek chorus of fanboy sycophants are particularly inclined to push back much, if at all, their guests say. After Rodgers’ first wind, McAfee put on a great show by shutting down the controversy and moving on to football matters, only to bring up Fauci unprompted during a discussion about the Steelers’ playoff chances, prompting Rodgers to do so again to talk from the front. None of this was new: Rodgers has repeatedly attacked Fauci on the McAfee show in the past. So it was no surprise that many fans rolled their eyes when reporters who defeated the Jets asked him during Monday’s farewell interview what the team needed to avoid another sub-.500 finish next season as Rodgers said “Throw out the nonsense” and eliminate “everything in this building that we do individually or collectively that has nothing to do with real winning.”

In particular, Rodgers’ appearances on McAfee were instrumental in bolstering the show’s credibility, particularly during the quarterback’s back-to-back MVP seasons in 2020 and 2021. He helped expand the show’s reach on ESPN, which the Show last May acquired a five-season, $85 million licensing deal in hopes of appealing to McAfee’s younger, bro-oriented audience. When McAfee gave up his annual football salary is $2.5 million When he started a media career with Barstool Sports in 2017, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon believed the player made a serious mistake. “Someone needs to intervene (for McAfee)” said the PTI anchor. “People who know this guy contact him Now.” Seven years later, McAfee has not only become a mainstay at the Worldwide Leader (alongside First Take and College GameDay when he’s not hosting his own show), he’s also got Wilbon’s influence at the network and perhaps front-runner Stephen A .also eclipsed Smith.

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To wit: Last week, McAfee got away with calling Norby Williamson, one of ESPN’s most powerful executives, a “rat” and an “old witch” who was actively “trying to sabotage us” on live combined television – and streaming audience close to one million viewers. (In addition, The McAfee Show has nearly 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube alone.) “No one is more committed to or invested in ESPN’s success than Norby Williamson,” the network said in a statement. “At the same time, we are excited about the multiplatform success we have seen on The Pat McAfee Show on ESPN.”

Last October, McAfee admitted Rodgers pays ‘over $1 million’ for his appearances on his show. In return, the quarterback gets a secure spot in the air to compete with the home-field advantage he once enjoyed at Lambeau Field, and since he’s merely a guest on The McAfee Show, ESPN has no control over him. Bryan Curtis, the media critic at The Ringer, summed up the train wreck this way: “Apparently no one involved in this story works for anyone. That’s why no one at ESPN can step in and say, ‘Please stop.'”

It’s telling that ESPN executives didn’t publicly object to Rodgers’ comments — and he had been airing baseless Covid chatter on McAfee’s show for months — until the quarterback used his network to launch sneaky attacks on Kimmel and his ABC show to start, even as the quarterback… The networks in play here are both owned by Disney. ESPN now faces a dilemma: either continue to provide McAfee Rodgers with a platform for his diatribes, or cut ties with the show and confirm the quarterback – and much of the American view – that shady forces are out to get the “real thing.” to silence fortune tellers”.

It wasn’t that long ago that Rodgers was one of the sharpest personalities in the league, a down-to-earth superstar who could talk shop just as well as asserting the right of his black colleagues to protest between shifts as a guest host on Jeopardy! and his public romances with Danica Patrick and Shailene Woodley. But the more he chats with McAfee, the more he emerges as a thin-skinned, egotistical antagonist who delights in starting fires and spreading misinformation. The disturbing truth is that many viewers will agree with Rodgers and pick up on his “research” on Covid and Fauci. At best, McAfee didn’t challenge Rodgers. Worst-case scenario, he continued running with the quarterback’s most dangerous handoff yet. On Wednesday, even McAfee seemed to have had enough for the time being: he announced to Rodgers will no longer appear on his show this season.

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