The Super Bowl is always chock-full of storylines and this year’s won’t be any different. But the topic that’s already polarising people and threatens to overshadow aspects on the field in the lead-up is Tom Brady’s relationship with Donald Trump.
Before getting into this, let’s start right away with the disclaimer I’ve grown up in Boston as a New England Patriots fan. When it comes to Brady, I have a biased outlook.
I also did not vote for Trump, nor agree with practically anything he says, does or stands for.
This is all a preface for me to admit I’ve been struggling to weigh my fandom of a sports team against my beliefs as a human being.
I’ve enjoyed the Patriots and their success. I’ve enjoyed following Brady transform from a sixth-round draft pick into the greatest quarterback ever. I’ve enjoyed Bill Belichick’s coaching brilliance.
But watching Brady and Belichick’s relationships with Trump unfold in the current climate has been sobering.
It’s served as a reminder that athletes and everyone else working in the field of sports are more complex – in both good and bad ways – than the simple black-and-white constructs we paint for them in our minds.
It’s ironic because simple is exactly what Brady is. As much as this is going to sound like a defence of him, it’s just what I honestly believe to be true, free of judgement.
There’s nothing in this world, other than his family, that Brady likely cares about more than winning football games. He’s 39-years-old and near the peak of his powers, at least in some part due to his insane commitment to defy the aging process through a crazy diet and grinding work ethic. That doesn’t leave all that much time or room to focus on anything else.
Brady also comes across as an extremely positive person and someone who refuses to let even a hint of negativity or distraction into his life for fear it will take him off track.
It’s entirely plausible that Brady’s relationship with Trump is nothing more than a casual friendship, developed over time like any other friendship between rich people.
You don’t always have to agree with everything your friend does or believes, but what’s hurt Brady in the public eye is he won’t specifically come out and say what he doesn’t agree with Trump on.
His unfaltering, somewhat commendable loyalty, combined with his desire to not make it an issue, has backfired on him. But it’s only reached this point through Brady’s own doing, namely keeping a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat in very plain sight in his locker, while admitting it “would be great” if Trump was President.
If you believe that was said by Brady with any hint of political motivation and not a case where he was just backing a friend, you’re giving him too much credit for paying attention to matters you and I do.
But because he went that far, Brady is very much open to criticism and questioning. That’s why it’s naive of him to ask: “Why does that make it such a big deal?”
What it doesn’t mean, however, is that Brady is a racist or a misogynist, or all the Patriots fans that love him and defend him to the death are all Trump supporters. After all, all six of the states that make up New England voted pro-Hilary Clinton.
It certainly isn’t a good look for Brady, but his situation needs to be kept in perspective. There have been, are and will continue to be far worse people in sports to loathe and demonise. At the end of the day, Brady appears to be an uninformed athlete who has associated himself with the wrong person.
If he’s guilty of anything, it is that.
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