Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers thinks he knows how digital media works. Generally, he does. More specifically, as it relates to the application of the term "clickbait" to stories that focus on objective evidence of Rodgers not seeing eye to eye with new coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers doesn't.
In recent days, Rodgers have been attributing stories about actual or apparent friction between himself and the first-year head coach who is only a few years older than Rodgers to clickbait. It's not clickbait; it's the development of opinions and analysis based on the words that have come out of his mouth while speaking to reporters about specific aspects of the situation in Green Bay.
Asked recently by former NFL fullback John Kuhn during a one-on-one for Packers.com regarding whether Rodgers has discussed the "outside noise" relating to the relationship between Rodgers and LaFleur, Rodgers was dismissive.
"It's fake news, John," Rodgers said. "That's the media cycle these days. Unfortunately, the media - other than obviously yourself - there's a lack of integrity, I think. There's a rush to put up headlines that are clickbait because the ad revenue is based on the amount of visits you get to your website. So instead of putting in a title that aptly fits the forthcoming article, it's more lucrative to post something that's going to generate the most commotion so that your site or your story gets the most hits possible. And when you're in a really low news cycle like in June and July when there's not much football going on, that's the kind of stuff that comes out. We don't need to spend any time talking about it because it's complete ridiculousness."
Clickbait isn't the issue. There's no clickbait at play between the content of stories regarding potential conflict between Rodgers and LaFleur and the titles to those items. But it's easier for Rodgers, like it is for certain high-profile politicians, to shrug at criticism as "fake news" or "clickbait" than to address the point that's actually being made.
Rodgers continued his assault on "clickbait" earlier today, both while speaking at his locker (where he admitted that, in dealing with the head coach, Rodgers needs to put his "ego and sensitivity" aside) and while being interviewed by SiriusXM NFL Radio.
"A lot of these sites you have like eight words to describe what the article's about," Rodgers told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "What are they gonna do? They're gonna put names and words that's gonna draw the most attention to it. And that's what I was bringing to light. I don't think I was speaking out of turn or ripping on anybody specifically. But it is what it is. That's the way that we ingest our data. It's so quick. We're, ourselves, are flying through, you know, whether it's tweets or social media filters or online sites, and we're just looking for like buzzwords. 'Oh, oh, that looks fun, I'm gonna do that.' Well, they know that. The most expensive commodity is not oil anymore. It's data. They know what they're doing. They're mining that data. And they're figuring out what people preferences, code words, colors, different things to get people to click on their stuff. Because the more clicks they get, the more ad revenue. And the more ad revenue, the more the salary, you know, that the company's making. And that's the way that the whole news cycle works. I'm just tired of being put in that news cycle. Because I've been saying the same thing over and over. Matt and I, it's gonna be a relationship that grows over time. We're having a blast. We're friends. Ton of communication. And we're having a great time."
If Rodgers doesn't want to be "put in that news cycle," he should quit saying things that naturally flow into that news cycle. When he complains to Mike Silver of the NFL that Rodgers wants more freedom at the line of scrimmage than the LaFleur offense gives him, Rodgers puts himself in that news cycle. When Rodgers complains to reporters about joint practices and, more surprisingly, specifically says it's not "smart" to have close-to-live kickoff drills that are sure to catch the attention of the NFL Players Association, Rodgers puts himself in that news cycle.
Rodgers, like certain high-profile politicans, wants to be able to say whatever is on his mind, without scrutiny or criticism. Unfortunately, the scrutiny and the criticism is part of the price that gets paid for having a big platform, for making more than $30 million a year, and ultimately for saying things that merit scrutiny and criticism.