Rittenhouse and Rodgers: A banner week in Wisconsin

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Pop/Life

photo from npr.org

I never expected to write a column about the things Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has in common with an eighteen-year-old killer. No matter what the jury decides next week in the trial of young Kyle Rittenhouse, he unquestionably and unnecessarily killed two people. Admittedly though, as far as strange occurrences of late go, seeing the commonalities here actually don’t rank all that high.

No, this is not just about their geographic proximity to one another. My sincerest regrets to The Badger State for pointing it out, but the recent national coverage of the goings on up north has not been flattering. And I’m sure it is particularly frustrating in cheese country, since technically neither Rodgers nor Rittenhouse are even from there.

In the Rittenhouse trial, closing arguments are scheduled for Monday. I was able to listen to portions of the trial during my daily commutes, and have continually been confused by the legal strategy of the prosecution and of the limitations placed on the proceedings by Judge Bruce Schroeder. That’s what happens when a non-lawyer like me listens to just a sliver of a trial: confusion.

What I am not confused by are the basic facts of what occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020. In the midst of unrest there, stemming from the August 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake, Rittenhouse left his home in Antioch, Illinois and went to Kenosha to “assist” with unrest. He was seventeen at the time. He obtained an AR-15 from a friend, and together, the two went to the streets to volunteer their help.

Rittenhouse did not possess the AR-15 legally. He was not authorized to be on the streets of Kenosha at the time of the shootings due to an emergency curfew that had been implemented by local authorities. He was not empowered to do anything that night. And in the midst of the chaos, he used that AR-15 to kill two people and wound a third.

His presence on the streets of Kenosha that night is analogous to a drunk driver. The drunk driver makes the dangerous decision to get behind the wheel of the car and drive, and virtually any harm that happens during that illegal act becomes the responsibility of that drunk driver. He or she would be criminally responsible because of that first, foundational crime. Our culture has come to accept this chronology of responsibility.

If the drunk driver ultimately causes the death of someone, it could be labeled something other than “murder,” but significant jail time inevitably follows. Rightfully so.

Rittenhouse’s defense is being made entirely on the grounds of “self-defense.” Hmm. Didn’t his foundational, initial decision to be there with his weapon in the first place create the perceived danger that lead to his “defensive,” or deadly behavior?  Of course it did.

Which leads me to Aaron Rodgers. Yes, he is an athlete. But more importantly, he is an influencer. We used to call them “role models” before the existence of influencer markets and marketing became so identifiable. Rodgers is a spokesman for Green Bay, the NFL, State Farm Insurance, Jeopardy!, and a long list of other things.

Earlier this year, he actively allowed the public to believe that he had received a COVID vaccination. And while the team and the league knew he had not been vaccinated, there were many ways that Rodgers behaved that would lead one to believe he was. When news of his infection became public last week, his unvaccinated status became known almost immediately following. His comments on the Pat McAfee Show made Rodgers sound like any other anti-vax American to me: it’s a personal choice.

Except that the original problem with all things surrounding Rodgers’ vaccination and the league’s action since all stem from the decision to lie about all of it back in August. Yes, calling it a lie is harsh, but it was unquestionably and purposely misleading. The privilege that Rodgers enjoys within the league was really the only thing that protected him this long.

Like Rittenhouse, overcoming the first mistake after the ultimately bad outcome that grew from it is no longer an option for Rodgers.

Like Rodgers, the privilege Rittenhouse enjoys is the primary thing that has been protecting him too. What privilege? Imagine how things might be different in the trial if Rittenhouse were black and his victims were white. Imagine if the judge in the trial even let the prosecution call the victims victims.

Yes, the two men have things in common. No, none of those commonalities are good ones.

5 Comments

  1. Morton Marcus

    You are far more restrained than I would be on this matter. …. which explains why I won’t be writing about this topic. Rittenhouse deserves 25 years in jail without parole. That short sentence is because he was only 17 at the time and might have a productive life after age 40.

    Rodgers deserves a minimum fine equal to 50% of his 2020 earnings from all sources, all directed toward health services for incarcerated persons in Wisconsin.

    Reply
  2. Wesley Duke Sapp

    You are right and Satan, “evil” for those afraid to give it a name, loves all of this. You’re either doing good or bad, you’re either doing actions for God or the Devil, there’s no in between and sadly these people’s actions were working for the Devil.

    Reply
  3. John Arlington

    Mike, you must not have listened to the trial, the gun was ruled legal. Also, the judge has been praised his whole career as a pro prosecutor judge. I don’t know about the curfew you raised. Also, I agree that a 17 year shouldn’t have a gun and he shouldn’t have been out there, to begin with. He was there and if you watch the film it is clear and from listening to the trial it was clearly self-defense. Also, Jacob Blake had a knife when he got shot and if you watch his interviews after he got out of hospital he admits to having a knife and you can clearly see it on video. Why are you not talking about the trial in Georiga that has some real issues? Also, this kid is going to get rich because people judge him before all the facts came out. The guilty before a chance to provide innocent is a bigger issue you should be talking about. Please don’t repeat all the talking points you are smarter than this.

    Reply
    • Michael Leppert

      The gun was not “ruled legal,” the gun charge was dismissed. Those are not the same things.

      I am well aware of the judge’s pro-prosecution history. However, there is no credible legal expert (of the dozens I have read and listened too) that has viewed the judge’s approach to this trial in any other light than pro-defense. There are many examples of his pro-defense rulings and behavior that are well documented from this specific trial.

      Did I pass judgement on the Jacob Blake matter? Nope.

      I wrote (in part) about the Ahmaud Arbery trial, which is what I assume you are talking about regarding Georgia, in my November 5 column. Here’s the link: https://michaelleppert.com/explain-what-critical-race-theory-is-please/

      Whether or not this kid gets rich from obviously doing a horribly wrong thing with his gun, was not a topic I covered in the column either. Any enhanced “value” he enjoys as a result of this awfulness will say more about the culture responsible for creating that value than anything else.

      No talking points have been repeated in my column. As is always the case, it’s all mine. Thanks for pointing out that I am “smarter than this.” I actually have responses for all of your issues, so I still feel good about the column I wrote and published, exactly the way it is.

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  4. John Arlington

    Mike, you are correct on the ruling about the firearm. I didn’t see your column on November 5th. I was referring to how the press is making a big deal about the Rittenhouse case, not the Georgia case. We can disagree on the talking points, I sure heard the same things across the national press almost word for word. You didn’t express that in the column about pro-prosecution, especially when the whole media was saying that. My point on Jacob Blake Is more context(I guess), and you didn’t mention the final findings. I wish people would let the court systems work. It sure worked on the Darren Chauvin case. I enjoy your columns. I hope everyone could have civil discussions and admit when mistakes are made, as I did above.

    Reply

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