On Wednesday afternoon in Denver, four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers sat down for a conversation with author and podcaster Aubrey Marcus at Psychedelic Science 2023, a conference on the applications of drugs including psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA that has drawn over 12,000 attendees. In this particular event, titled “How Psychedelics Can Unlock Elite Performance,” Rodgers spoke about how he has personally benefited from taking ayahuasca (or “aya,” as he often referred to it), a potent psychoactive drink traditionally brewed by indigenous peoples of the Amazon.
Early in the discussion, Rodgers talked about his first experience with ayahuasca, in Peru, shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns of 2020. He attributed his subsequent MVP season with the Green Bay Packers — at least in part — to the positive effects of the substance on his overall mental health. “I had probably my best season in my career,” he said, which made him realize that “at some point” he wanted to talk openly about psychedelics. “It’s gonna be hard to cancel me,” he recalled thinking at the time, given how well he had done on the field that year.
Since then, Rodgers claimed, “hundreds” of NFL players have reached out to him about potentially trying ayahuasca themselves, which he said can also strengthen team bonds through intimate ritual. “Seeing somebody double platinum in the maloca changes your relationship with them,” he quipped at one point. The maloca is the traditional hut where an ayahuasca ceremony takes place, while “double platinum,” as Marcus explained, is a euphemism for vomiting and defecating at the same time from the effect of the drug.
Amid the pair’s musing on the ways that age-old psychedelic medicines could revolutionize today’s culture, they expressed admiration for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is challenging President Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024. Kennedy — whom Rodgers and Marcus mostly referred to as “Bobby” — has already made a number of bizarre claims on the campaign trail and routinely attacks the pharmaceutical industry. In a Twitter Spaces event, he suggested without evidence that antidepressants are to blame for school shootings, and for almost two decades he has promoted conspiracist pseudoscience about the dangers of vaccines, including those for Covid-19.
Marcus, who recently interviewed Kennedy on his podcast in an episode describing him as “Our Next President,” declared his support for the controversial candidate, saying that he is “someone who’s sharing the truth from his heart.” The audience heavily applauded Marcus’ endorsement. Rodgers, who has likewise signaled support for Kennedy, praised him as a person who has found his “edge,” commenting that “it takes work, it takes risks, you have to be willing to do what Bobby Kennedy is — put yourself in some really uncomfortable situations — in order to reach that edge.”
Rodgers also joked about his own anti-vax stance, much in line with Kennedy’s, when describing a critical inner voice that he said can be managed with psychedelic-assisted introspection. “‘You’re not good enough, you’re not gonna win this game. Nobody likes you … you’re a crazy anti-vaxxer,’” he joked, to laughter from the audience. “But I think the beauty in between these journeys is to find that self-love, because the greatest antidote to the anti-you is unconditional self love,” Rodgers said.
Elsewhere, Rodgers quoted the Avatar movies (“I see you”), professed his belief that there are no coincidences, and talked about the importance of personal interconnectedness. But he also went after those who criticized him for using psychedelics, saying they would think differently if they sampled these substances themselves. “I guarantee, all these bums, the ones who come after me online about my experience and stuff, they’ve never tried it,” he said. “But some of them, you know, you’re the people that need this medicine the most. And that’s why we got to make it so attractive — this movement — so attractive. To change the narrative, to bring more love and unity in this world.”
Of course, that unity may come at a price when people refuse safe and effective vaccines for highly transmissible and potentially fatal diseases. But it’s a nice sentiment just the same.