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Associated Press supports Hub Arkush in NFL MVP voting saga

For those suggesting that Hub Arkush lose his vote for the NFL MVP award after revealing the reasons he won’t give it to Aaron Rodgers, save your breath. “We’re not gonna throw out his ballot,” the AP’s Barry Wilner said.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
Hub Arkush interviews former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall after a game in Green Bay, Wis.

For those suggesting that Hub Arkush lose his vote for the NFL MVP award after revealing the reasons he won’t give it to Aaron Rodgers, save your breath.

“We’re not gonna throw out his ballot,” Barry Wilner said.

Wilner is the Associated Press’ national pro football writer, and he has overseen the voting process for NFL awards for about 30 years.

Since the 2010 awards, the league has used the AP’s voting for the “NFL Honors” show that airs before the Super Bowl. It’s a serious endeavor, but Wilner said he has never — and would never — take away someone’s vote because of a difference in definition of “valuable.”

“For MVP, because the word ‘valuable’ is judgmental, it would be unfair and unwise for us to set any parameters for that award,” Wilner said. “We can’t tell people how to think about what they consider most valuable.”

The saga began Tuesday, when Arkush, The Score’s Bears and NFL expert, said on the “Parkins & Spiegel” show that he would not vote for the Packers quarterback because he held the team and fans hostage through the offseason and because he feigned being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are told to pick the guy we think is the most valuable to his team,” Arkush said. “I don’t think it says anywhere strictly on the field, although I do think he hurt his team on the field by the way he acted off the field. They’re gonna get the No. 1 seed anyway, but what if it came down to the Chiefs game when he ended up not playing?”

Rodgers said in August that he was “immunized” against COVID-19 when in fact he hadn’t received a vaccine. He missed the Packers’ Nov. 7 game against the Chiefs while he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and they took one of their three losses this season.

Arkush received backlash across sports media. Mike Florio of NBC Sports and profootballtalk.com wrote that Arkush should be removed from the panel of 50 voters for his “admission that he won’t vote for Rodgers due to irrelevant factors.” Rodgers took some shots, calling Arkush “a bum” and saying the award should be renamed the “most valuable vaccinated player.”

After seeing the fallout, Arkush said Wednesday on the “Bernstein & Rahimi” show that he regretted revealing his thoughts on the award.

“I made a big mistake last night, and it doesn’t really have much to do with Aaron Rodgers,” Arkush said. “Being one of the 50 selectors in the AP poll is a real honor and a privilege. The only thing that they ask us is not to tell people who we voted for until the award is presented. And what they really mean is don’t talk about it. And the reason in part is because of exactly what’s happened here.”

Arkush felt especially bad for saying he wouldn’t be the only one not voting for Rodgers, which he said could put his fellow voters in the awkward position of being asked for their vote. But Wilner was satisfied with Arkush’s response.

“We prefer our voters to not reveal how they voted until it’s announced after ‘NFL Honors,’ ” Wilner said. “That’s the one thing that we try to require. And Hub has apologized for it.”

Of course, Arkush didn’t reveal whom he was voting for, only whom he wasn’t voting for. The problem was that he discussed it at all.

Wilner stood by his voting panel, saying it might be the best the AP has had because it’s eclectic. It includes writers, broadcasters, former players and Hall of Famers. He said people have lost their place on the panel for transgressions such as failing to submit on time, but no one has been kicked out for what they think.

And Arkush’s arguments are valid. A player’s off-the-field conduct certainly can be included in his value to a team. Think of the coaches in the running for Coach of the Year. Their value must include more than what voters see on the field, such as preparing the players during the practice week and what goes on in the locker room. Why shouldn’t a voter take a player’s body of work into account?

Arkush crossed a line when he seemed to make his gripes with Rodgers personal, calling him a “jerk” and saying, “I think he’s a bad guy, and I don’t think a bad guy can be the most valuable guy at the same time.” He never should’ve shared those feelings.

But he shared appropriate feelings Wednesday night on The Score. Arkush didn’t beg off his scheduled 6-9 p.m. shift, and he took calls and spoke openly about the whole situation.

“I feel pretty strongly about my reasoning of what my vote will be,” Arkush said. “But in terms of how I expressed it, it was just wrong.”