NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned to ESPN's "The Pat McAfee Show" Thursday following speculation that he had been permanently booted off the program over some recent controversial comments.
Rumors started to emerge after host Pat McAfee announced Wednesday that Rodgers' weekly scheduled appearances on the show were done for the rest of the NFL season.
"So Aaron Rodgers' Tuesday season four is, uh, done," he said while applauding. "There could be a lot of people happy with that, myself included, to be honest with you."
For four years, Rodgers has appeared regularly on the show throughout the NFL season. But these weekly segments gained added attention as of late, after the New York Jets quarterback strayed from typical sports chitchat and instead brought up a rather touchy subject.
In a previous episode, Rodgers brought up a so-called list of people associated with convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, saying "a lot of people including Jimmy Kimmel" hope the names aren't made public.
The comment — which McAfee has blown off as a joke — prompted immediate backlash from Kimmel, including a scathing seven-minute monologue on his late night talk show and even threats of legal action.
"... for the record, I've not met, flown with, visited, or had any contact whatsoever with Epstein, nor will you find my name on any 'list' other than the clearly-phony nonsense that soft-brained wackos like yourself can't seem to distinguish from reality," Kimmel responded on social media. "Your reckless words put my family in danger. Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court."
Therefore, McAfee's announcement that Rodgers' time on the show had come to an end led many to suspect that the quarterback may have been permanently dismissed from the show due to the controversy. However, McAfee took to social media Wednesday to clear up any rumors.
"Our fans know that ART [Aaron Rodgers Tuesday] ends shortly after Aaron’s team’s season ends.. that’s how it’s been," he said. "He’ll make random surprise welcomed pop ins during big events or offseason adventures but, it’s always been a season thing. I never said he’ll never be on the show again. I hope he chooses to still chat with us."
That said, Rodgers made a surprising return to the show Thursday.
He and McAfee kept the conversation much lighter, largely focusing on sports news, avoiding past topics of discussion like vaccines, UFOs and, more importantly, Rodgers' fiery feud with Kimmel.
McAfee is in the first year of a five-year, $85 million licensing agreement with ESPN. The network announced last month that "The Pat McAfee Show" averaged 886,000 viewers per episode and reached an audience of some 298 million people in December alone.
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