Kirk Cousins is trending on social media Wednesday after he talked about COVID-19 safety measures on Spotify's "10 Questions" podcast with NFL Network's Kyle Brandt.
Here's the back-and-forth during the interview that put the Vikings quarterback in the social media spotlight.
Brandt: “If 1 is the person who says, ‘Masks are stupid, you’re all a bunch of lemmings’ and 10 is, ‘I’m not leaving my master bathroom for the next 10 years,’ where do you land?”
Cousins: “I’m not gonna call anybody stupid, for the trouble it would get me in. But I’m about a .000001.”
Brandt: “Really, how come?”
Cousins: “I want to respect what other people’s concerns are. For me personally, just talking no one else can get the virus, what is your concern if you could get it, I would say I’m gonna go about my daily life. If I get it, I’m gonna ride it out. I’m gonna let nature do its course. Survival-of-the-fittest kind of an approach. And just say, if it knocks me out, it knocks me out. I’m going to be OK. You know, even if I die. If I die, I die. I kind of have peace about that.”
But the part of Cousins' response that is not being wholly reported, including the piece by the New York Post that got the ball rolling, is this line:
"My opinion about wearing a mask is really about being respectful to other people, it really has nothing to do with my own personal thoughts," Cousins said.
The overlooking of this part of his statement has sparked defense from local sports media in the Twin Cities.
Health experts and leaders across the U.S. have noted that the wearing of face masks should be seen as a courtesy to protect other people from COVID-19 – given that they can limit the amount of aerosols emitted from peoples' mouths and noses – even if the individual is themselves not concerned about catching the virus.
Nonetheless, the decision to answer with "0.00001%" and his comments of "If I die, I die" have been criticized for potentially undermining the response to COVID-19 and for displaying a cavalier attitude to a virus that has killed 185,000 Americans and counting.
The "survival of the fittest" comment could also be argued to be in poor taste given that 60% of Americans have underlying conditions that can make them more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19.
And although his comments have been couched in the "respect for others" and not wanting to "call anybody stupid," his decision to answer the first place has been called into question, with ProFootball Talk noting: "On Kirk Cousins, it's important to look past the clickbait catchphrase and understand what he's saying (even if he shouldn't be saying it out loud)."
The Vikings have employed strict safety measures to protect players, coaches and staff during the pandemic.
In late July, team trainer and Eric Sugarman tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after he was featured in Peter King's Football Morning in America column about the team's COVID-19 protocols.
“You are required to wear a face covering inside this building all day," Sugarman told King.
Cousins previously tweeted that "health and safety" have to be priorities for the NFL to return to action.
He also noted in the podcast appearance that "if you're in a huddle and you know one of these guys is deathly concerned about it you're not going to disrespect him and sneeze in his face."
Michael Pierce, the defensive tackle who was Minnesota's biggest free agent acquisition during the offseason, opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns about COVID-19.
"If I caught [COVID-19], I probably would be in some real trouble," Pierce told the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson after making his decision to sit out the season.
Bring Me The News has reached out to the Vikings for a comment.