Jay Williams fights Stephen A. Smith on Aaron Rodgers, Kyrie Irving

Jay Williams brought receipts to Stephen A. Smith on “First Take” on Thursday.

Aaron Rodgers is missing at least Sunday’s Packers game against the Chiefs because he tested positive for COVID-19. He had reportedly received homeopathic anti-inflammatory treatments and petitioned NFL to classify him as vaccinated. The league declined. When asked directly by reporters in August if he was vaccinated, Rodgers answered that he was “immunized.”

For this series of events, Stephen A. Smith said that Rodgers is a “liar” and a “coward”:

Smith did not take a stance on whether it matters here if Rodgers is vaccinated or not, but focused on the misdirection and the fact that Rodgers was not following the league’s protocols by speaking to the media without wearing a mask this season.

Having watched that segment backstage, Jay Williams entered the show and called Smith out for going easier on Rodgers’ decision not to be vaccinated than he did with Kyrie Irving, who has sat out the Nets season so far while refusing to get the jab:

“I have this gripe with you, and I wrote down some things that you said here,” Williams said to Smith. “Three-and-a-half weeks ago you said ‘It amounts to betrayal’ for Kyrie, ‘flat out stupid,’ ‘bad teammate,’ ‘selfish’ … Oct. 16 on CNN, ‘to hell with you’ — you say all these things about Kyrie Irving, and he was very upfront and honest about his situation. He wasn’t jeopardizing anyone else. He didn’t put anybody else on the Brooklyn Nets at risk.

“I just didn’t feel the same venom — I didn’t feel the same energy that was associated with Kyrie Irving, and a part of me wonders why. How come you don’t hold Aaron Rodgers — who lied — to the same standard?”

Aaron Rodgers COVID vaccine
Aaron Rodgers, who is not vaccinated, tested positive for COVID and will miss the Packers’ Sunday game against the Chiefs.
Getty Images

It was a fascinating sequence of events. Smith said that his distinction was not that Irving should get the vaccine because of its efficacy, but that he owed it to Kevin Durant and James Harden to follow New York City’s mandate and be available as a teammate, after steering Durant to the Nets instead of the Knicks. He added that many of Irving’s teammates did not want to get vaccinated, but did so out of a sense of responsibility to the team.

Kyrie Irving vaccine
Kyrie Irving, who is not vaccinated, won’t play for the Nets this season until he is compliant with New York City’s mandate.
Corey Sipkin

It would be wonderful if we could reach a point in the next few years where conversations like these are in our rear-view.

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