Molly Knight Details Her Side of the Aaron Rodgers ‘COVID Toe’ Controversy: ‘Does He Think That’s What I Deserve for Making a Joke About Him and Joe Rogan?’

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has spent much of this season in the news for non-football-related topics. The big controversy was over his COVID-19 vaccination status and what appeared to be an attempt by the quarterback to mislead the media, but it’s far from the only off-field drama Rodgers has created.

Rodgers has taken off his filter, from his mini-revolution against the Packers front office this past offseason to his multiple rants on COVID-19.

He says he’s being true to himself, but is that actually a good thing? Raging against the media and the “woke mob” is all fine and dandy until there’s an actual human on the other side.

How an Aaron Rodgers joke about “COVID toe” got blown out of preportion

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks onto the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Bengals | Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The immunization scandal set off one of many firestorms Rodgers was more than happy to flame in media appearances and press conferences. His preferred method of communication has been weekly appearances on The Pat McAfee Show. McAfee has gleefully hosted many of Rodgers’ rants, and why wouldn’t he? Rodgers has been a significant source of views for his podcast, and the more unhinged the quarterback is, the more people tune in.

The problem for the casual viewer of the show is that it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between actual conversation and inside jokes. For instance, Rodgers and McAfee discussed the toe injury he somewhat mysteriously suffered while away from the team due to his positive test. However he hurt it, he joked with McAfee that he was suffering from “COVID toe.”

If you watch the clip of the show, it’s clear that Rodgers was being sarcastic with McAfee, as he often is. That didn’t stop The Wall Street Journal from running with the story and doing an actual deep dive on Rodgers and the validity of “COVID toe,” though.

That story was also the genesis of a chain of events that wrongly put journalist and author Molly Knight in the crosshairs of Rodgers.

Rodgers ironically turned the “woke mob” against journalist Molly Knight

Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN wrote a fascinating deep dive into what he called the “unfiltered year of Aaron Rodgers” that’s worth looking into. Amid the tales of on-field heroics and Rodgers’ explanations of why he’s decided to be more unfiltered this season (“I don’t want to apologize for being myself”) is a story that highlights the downside of Rodgers’ new attitude.

The Wall Street Journal’s “COVID toe” story circulated quickly across the internet and was widely shared before Rodgers debunked it in a now-infamous press conference. One of the people who shared it was Knight, who has a considerable following on Twitter as a baseball writer for multiple reputable outlets, including ESPN. She shared the story and added a quip of her own.

“This is what happens when you get medical advice from Joe Rogan,” she wrote in a since-deleted Tweet.

What happened next put her in the crosshairs of both Rodgers and his most ardent supporters.

“At first, I thought it was just another day of being a woman online in sports,” Knight told Van Valkenburg. “I even argued a little with a few of them, not knowing that Aaron Rodgers had publicly called me out in a press conference and said I owed him an apology.”

What happened was that Rodgers was given bad information and believed it was Knight who wrote the “COVID toe” piece. She had simply shared it on Twitter, but he was under the impression that she was the author of it, and he went after her during his press conference.

“That’s actually called disinformation when you perpetuate false information about an individual,” Rodgers said. “I have a fractured toe. So, I expect a full apology from Molly Knight and whoever her editor was.”

Tucked away in the piece on Rodgers is an anxiety-inducing account from Knight in which she described being bombarded on social media by not just Packers fans but also by proponents of the anti-vaccination movement.

“It honestly felt like the walls were closing in and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I felt like I had to explain myself to all these people, but there would be people who would only ever hear his press conference. They’re never going to figure out that it wasn’t me. They’re just going to hate me forever.”

Rodgers was unapologetic for his role in the online bombardment on Knight

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions | Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The irony of Knight’s situation is that Rodgers couldn’t see his own hypocrisy in it all. He made it clear that he felt he was being targeted by the “woke mob” in his initial rant on the McAfee show.

“I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now, so before the final nail gets put into my cancel-culture casket, I think I’d like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself right now,” he said at the time.

He clearly felt he was being targeted because of misinformation, but when he was notified that Knight was not the author of the “COVID-toe” story, he didn’t even offer an apology. The quarterback said he had a “respectful conversation” with the actual author of the piece, but he went on to call Knight “opportunistic” and say that she was “not without blame.”

That was then, but it’s worth noting that Rodgers hasn’t changed his tune on Knight, even with the benefit of time and hindsight on his side. In fact, his statement to Van Valkenburg makes him seem even more dug in.

“In retrospect, I should have read it first, and maybe it would have been different. I wouldn’t maybe have mentioned her name. But she was piling on. It was a perfect storm for her to jump on this anti-vaxxer, flat-earther who ended up getting COVID toe and he’s got lesions on the bottom of his feet. So, she chose her platform to run with an absolutely ridiculous story.”

Aaron Rodgers discussing his wrongful “call-out” of journalist Molly Knight.

For her part, Knight told ESPN that she suffered panic attacks and even had to leave her home for five days because of fear that she would be tracked down. She reportedly even received death threats because of how Rodgers singled her out.

“Does he think that’s what I deserve for making a joke about him and Joe Rogan?” Knight told ESPN. “He had to know what would happen, that people would come after me. It horribly impacted my mental health. I think it would have horribly impacted anyone’s mental health.”

A hero to many on the field, Rodgers has become a hero to many off of it because of his “unfiltered year.”

It’s just ironic that for someone so worried about the “woke mob” coming after him, the “hero” of this story showed little to no empathy for Knight when he turned the mob against her. Apparently, the mob is fine when it’s on his side.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. 

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