Aaron Rodgers’ weekly slot on Pat McAfee’s YouTube show is often a newsmaking draw, but Wednesday’s edition reached a whole new level as the quarterback confirmed his “intention” to play for the New York Jets.
The daily show drew just shy of 500,000 concurrent live viewers today, an audience several times the size of that for ESPN or other cable TV networks on a typical weekday. During the NFL’s free agency period, the destiny of Rodgers has been a major storyline as the 39-year-old kept the sports world and New York City in suspense for weeks about whether he would head to New York, stay with the Green Bay Packers, or just retire. Some have compared Wednesday’s silence-breaking interview with LeBron James’ widely hyped revelation in 2010 that he would “take his talents to South Beach” and play with the Miami Heat, a move famously packaged for TV as The Decision.
Since last Friday, Rodgers told McAfee, “my intention was to play for the New York Jets.” The only thing holding up a trade between the teams is “compensation,” he added, meaning what the Packers will receive in return for the four-time league MVP.
Rodgers coming to New York ranks nearly at the top of the all-time list of splashy sports arrivals in the city. Along with national media outlets, several dozen beat reporters track the Jets every day, compared with a much smaller coterie of Packers media in Green Bay; the Green Bay-Appleton, WI market is the 68th-largest in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Along with his gifts on the field, Rodgers has a large contrarian streak, which will get a brighter spotlight in New York. He drew backlash last year after telling reporters in 2021 he had been “immunized” against Covid. Months later, it came to light that he had not, in fact, received the Covid vaccine but instead offered an intentionally misleading answer when asked if he was vaxxed. (At the time, leagues, teams and health authorities were engaged in the complex process of returning to action in front of fans and navigating the waves of the pandemic.)
McAfee, a former NFL punter, has rocketed to sports media prominence in recent years. His freewheeling YouTube show regularly draws notable names and features the host in conversation with a coterie of pundits and fellow athletes in an uncensored forum, with viewers contributing to the YouTube comments section. The show’s traction has earned it more than 2.1 million subscribers and got McAfee a four-year, $120 million deal with sports betting company FanDuel (though a New York Post report this week indicated that the relationship could unravel before the deal is up). Half a million concurrent viewers may not be anywhere close to the millions who watch livestreams related to videogaming, SpaceX launches or BTS shows, but for a sports chat show it’s a massive number.
In addition to delivering the words that victory-starved Jets fans have wanted to hear ever since Joe Namath left town after delivering the team’s lone Super Bowl win in 1969, Rodgers as usual had plenty of opinions about the media. After emerging from a days-long “darkness retreat” last month, Rodgers said he discovered that ESPN reporter Adam Schefter — one of the foremost scoop-meisters in the NFL establishment — had obtained his contact information and reached out for a Packers-Jets update. “Ask Schefter what I texted him when he somehow got my number,” he told McAfee with a smirk. “Lose my number!”
Here’s one of the clips from Rodger’s hour-long appearance:
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