With Super Bowl 51 just days away, there are countless questions looming on the minds of New England Patriots fans. Can the Patriots’ secondary contain Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones? How awkward will it be if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots? Is Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan really that good? And perhaps most of all…. How the hell could Tom Brady support Donald Trump?!?!
By now, it would be nearly impossible to be wholly unaware of the controversy surrounding the Patriots and Trump. Just in case, here is a quick refresher: Brady and Trump are longtime friends, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter to Trump before Election Day to voice support, and Patriots owner Bob Kraft shares a hazy relationship with the new president. All three have been hounded with questions about their relationships with Trump, and Brady especially has felt the wrath of angry fans and a suspicious media.
As a liberal, a diehard Patriots fan, and Tom Brady’s biggest admirer (yes, I said it), allow me to enter the debate, and hopefully finish it. It is time to end this witch-hunt and let the boys focus on the big game.
To start, let me say this: I do wish Brady were not associated with Trump. I disagree with nearly everything Trump does and says, and I believe he is to blame for much of the divisiveness and hatred that has consumed our country over the past year. That being said, it is time to lay off TB12.
Tom Brady burst into the NFL in the 2000 season, and has not looked back since. He has elevated to legend status, and thousands of fans (*raises hand*) worship the very land on which he walks. Brady has become more than just a quarterback; he is a cultural icon. He has a clothing brand (have you seen those new pajamas?), a modeling career, a wife with more worldwide fame than him, and his own line of nutrition foods. He is undoubtedly one of the more influential members of our culture.
Donald Trump has been a successful businessman since the 1970s, and is known for his involvement in real estate, reality television, and various sports ventures. For decades, he was just a very wealthy man who was famous for being rich. He eventually entered the arena of politics, and well, the rest is history.
If you look at these two men separately, it makes a lot of sense that they are friends. They are both famous and rich celebrities who love money and football. For a young athlete, having a friend and supporter with endless money and influence is unquestionably positive. Brady and Trump talk on the phone occasionally, play golf together, and participate in many other superficial activities that are common in celebrity friendships. In this respect, their bond should not be causing any outrage.
Obviously, it is not even close to that simple anymore. Since Trump’s political career took off, he has grown far more controversial and taboo. All of a sudden, politicians and celebrities have been pressured into picking sides; you are either with him or you are against him. Is that really fair?
I completely understand why Patriots fans want to know where Brady stands on all this. Their hero quarterback is now being associated with a racist, misogynistic, and incredibly inflammatory political figure. Trump has said and done things that have ostracized and offended nearly every minority in America. Fans just want to know whether their beloved play-caller condones Trump’s behavior. But before jumping to blame and criticize Brady for his silence, consider this whole debacle from his perspective.
Pretend that you are Tom Brady (if only, right?). You are an accomplished football player, and thousands of people love you and look up to you. An old friend of yours who donates to your charities and plays golf with you runs for president. He has supported you since the beginning. But uh-oh, turns out he is kind of awful. Now those fans want to know if you will vote for him. You know that no matter what you say, you will anger people. If you come out in full support, many liberal fans will disavow you (and remember, this is New England). If you distance yourself from him, your name may be added to his long list of those who have betrayed or wronged him, and that could end badly for you. So, you say nothing. You display a hat he sent you in your locker, but you do not voice political or electoral support. You remain as vague as possible. You emphasize friendship, and then pivot back to football. Staying quiet is your best option. At this point, it is a game of damage control.
So yes, I understand that many fans want to see Brady disown Trump. I cannot pretend that I am not one of those fans. However, we must think about all sides of this situation. Tom Brady is an athlete. He plays football for a living. He is not a political commentator or a public servant. He has no obligation to share any of his personal views or beliefs with anyone. Yes, he holds immense cultural power and influence, and he understands that responsibility. I would say he excels in that role. But when it comes to his political leanings, and his old friend who has become a dangerously hot topic, maybe we should leave him alone. Much of Brady’s personal life has become public. The line needs to be drawn somewhere.
For almost 20 years, Brady has shared locker rooms with men from all over the world, and nobody ever has a negative thing to say about his character. His friendship with Donald Trump should not taint any of that. He is not a bad person for having a controversial friend.
In a recent interview with WEEI, Brady was again asked about his relationship with Trump. He responded, “I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”
They are friends. They call each other. That is all. Do not expect Brady to reverse course and become open about his political beliefs. No matter what he says, he will be attacked. So mum’s the word on this one.
It may be frustrating that he has remained silent. But what would you do if you were Brady? I’ll tell you what you would do: Be as vague as possible, keep your personal beliefs private, and return to focusing on football. Because seriously, Julio Jones is a much bigger threat to the Patriots than Donald Trump.
I have your back, TB12.
(I couldn’t resist…)