Ever since it was learned Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the baseball season, reaction from his high-profile friend and business partner in Green Bay has been anticipated.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stood at his locker following the first training camp practice of the 2013 football season and the first question he received was on Braun.
"I was shocked, I really was, just like I know many of you were," said Rodgers. "You know, I was backing up a friend who looked me in the eye on multiple occasions and repeatedly denied these allegations, said they weren't true.
"It is disappointing, not only for myself as a friend, but obviously for Wisconsin sports fans, Brewers fans, Major League Baseball fans. It doesn't feel great to be lied to like that. I'm disappointed in the way it all went down."
Rodgers spoke with perhaps unexpected frankness at an awkward line of questioning regarding a personal relationship. Some athletes would avoid giving a direct answer, dance around the queries posed. But not Rodgers.
Not only did the pair of Wisconsin sports stars have a publicly acknowledged friendship, the two also have a licensing partnership with 8-Twelve MVP Bar and Grill in Brookfield, Wis. with another franchise set to open later this year in Glendale, Wis.
In regards to the quarterback's outspoken defense of his friend on social media back in 2012 that bordered on indignant righteousness, Rodgers didn't apologize, but he did express remorse in how he handled the situation.
So where does the relationship––from both a personal and business standpoint––go from here?
"That's yet to be determined," said Rodgers. "I don't regret backing a friend up. Obviously in hindsight, a more measured approach next time would be a better course of action.
"People make mistakes, and I definitely believe in forgiveness and moving forward. Obviously he has a tough task in front of him moving forward with his career on and off the field. As far as the business goes, right now I'm focused on football and I have people who can help me with those type of issues."
Rodgers also stated his belief in the importance of not betraying fans' trust in saying he feels fortunate to have had success in Green Bay and the support of Wisconsin sports fans.
The timing of new measures being taken in the NFL to discover athletes using performance-enhancing drugs couldn't be more apropos.
According to recent reports, the NFL and the players' union are close to agreeing to new measure that will test professional football players for Human Growth Hormone.
"I think that's important," said Rodgers. "I think leveling the playing field is very important. I know when the new CBA got signed that was one of the important things that they were trying to work through, and it seems like we're taking some action, steps towards that. Anything that cleans the game up is great not only for the players but for the fans and for the example we set for young players."
Braun showed disregard for the rules of Major League Baseball and now must deal with the fallout.
Many of the fans who supported him through his successful appeal back in 2012 are changing their tune, based on reaction seen and heard on social media, sports radio and any other number of platforms.
Just minutes after it happened, Rodgers reaction to Braun aired on national media from the NFL Network to ESPN. The soap box of the NFL's highest-paid player is a tall one, and it's possible that many fans will be taking their cue from the Packers quarterback.
If Rodgers' feelings toward Braun are any indication, it will be a long road back to gain the trust of those to whom he lied.
But Rodgers also left the door open to reconciliation. Where their friendship and partnership goes from here is a tale whose ending hasn't been written yet.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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