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Journal Times editorial: In MVP vote, judge Rodgers for what he does on the field

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers has led Green Bay to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and is the popular choice as league MVP.

One of the reasons we enjoy watching professional sports is fair competition: In the case of football, it’s your team against my team; we see who can score the most points, qualify for the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.

Postseason awards in the NFL honor the best in particular categories: Rookies of the Year on offense and defense, Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player. While those awards are, by definition, subjective, it is consistently true that the players ranking high in major statistical categories are the ones considered for the awards.

By any objective measure, last year’s MVP winner, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, is having another outstanding season: He’s completed 68.6% of his passes for 3,977 yards, 35 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. At 13-2 as a starter, he’s led the Packers to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

During the recent nationally televised Green Bay-Minnesota game, analyst Cris Collinsworth suggested Rodgers is the favorite to win the award again. That’s one man’s opinion, but he’s not alone among those who cover the NFL in expressing that view.

There are those who don’t share Collinsworth’s view on the MVP vote. Which would be fine … if their opinions were about playing football.

Rodgers, area Packers fans do not need to be reminded, has been outspoken in his skepticism regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. He missed the game against the Kansas City Chiefs after testing positive, and had been less than completely honest about his vaccination status when asked about in August. He has remained steadfast in his skepticism.

One of the 50 voters for the Associated Press MVP award is veteran Chicago sports journalist Hub Arkush.

“I don’t think you can be the biggest jerk in the league and punish your team, and your organization and your fan base the way he did and be the Most Valuable Player,” Arkush said Tuesday during an interview on WSCR (670 AM). “I just think that the way he’s carried himself is inappropriate. I do think he hurt his team on the field by the way he acted off the field. They’re gonna get the No. 1 seed anyway, but what if the difference had come down to the Chiefs game, where he lied about being vaccinated, and they ended up getting beat? I think he’s a bad guy, and I don’t think a bad guy can be the most valuable guy at the same time.”

On Wednesday, Arkush issued a conditional apology, published at ShawLocal.com: “I allowed myself to be walked into a conversation about an MVP candidate I knew I would not be voting for. I said some things that while not unreasonable in the context they were said, I voiced them in totally inappropriate ways. I couldn’t possibly be more sorry for joining the conversation at all and some of the childish things I said about Aaron Rodgers … you are one of the greatest players of this generation and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Whether or not you are this year’s MVP is up to the 50-member panel, neither me, nor my critics.”

At least Mr. Arkush got it right with that last sentence.

Sports figures expressing opinions on matters outside the sports world is not new. Muhammad Ali was outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the point of refusing induction into the military as a conscientious objector based on his religious beliefs. His objection was upheld by the Supreme Court, enabling him to resume his boxing career. But that, of course, was about his ability to compete at all, not whether he was the best, and boxing is about defeating the other boxer; no Most Valuable Boxer Award is necessary.

A more recent and relevant example: Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr is outspokenly liberal. In 2015-16, his team set the NBA record for regular-season wins — having won 73 and lost only 9. Should his non-basketball opinions have mattered in the voting for Coach of the Year, which he deservedly won? Or should the vote for that honor have been based upon what his players did on the court under his direction?

The voters for NFL MVP will decide whether Rodgers should repeat as winner of the game’s top individual honor, or whether a different player having an outstanding season — such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, or Indianapolis Colts (and former Wisconsin Badgers) running back Jonathan Taylor — should receive it.

That decision should be limited to what the top players have done this season between the white lines.

It’s Most Valuable Player, not Most Valuable Player Whose Views Match My Own.

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