Patriots’ Tom Brady on Trump controversies: ‘I have a right to stay out of it’

, USA TODAY SportsPublished 7:24 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017

 

As he’s mentioned repeatedly, Brady, 39, didn’t come to the brink of winning a fifth Super Bowl ring to talk politics. Regardless of how high a profile he commands, he is under no obligation to use the Super Bowl LI platform to expound on, say, whether he thinks it’s a good idea to build a wall along the Mexican border or bar Muslim immigrants from entering the country.

Yet Brady cannot have it both ways.2017-01-31-tom-brady

It wasn’t too long ago that he made a statement by displaying a “Make America Great Again” cap in his locker, an obvious show of support for his friend, Donald Trump — who has had no problem dropping Brady’s name when telling the world that he’s received phone calls from the quarterback.

Now that Trump has begun his presidency by pursuing some of the divisive measures promised on the campaign trail, sparking protests across the country, it is natural to wonder how this resonates with Brady. After all, we’re in an environment where Colin Kaepernick has taken a knee to protest police brutality during the national anthem, major NBA figures (LeBron James, Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr among them) have spoken out on multiple issues, and just Monday night — during the Super Bowl’s Opening Night media fest — Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett didn’t mince words in maintaining why it’s important for him to address social issues.

But Brady is avoiding such chatter like he’ll try to stay away from Dwight Freeney and Vic Beasley on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

It’s his right, and it’s notable that Atlanta Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, a Muslim, politely declined to discuss the travel ban, adding that he would speak on it after the Super Bowl.

It just seems odd that when asked about the protests, Brady responded that he didn’t realize what was going on.

 

“I haven’t paid attention,” Brady said, when I asked how he could be oblivious to the protests.

You’d think that maybe someone — a family member, agent or teammate — might have said something or that he might have scanned headlines on his cellphone.New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (left) talks

“I’ve been so busy with football the last week and a half,” Brady said. “I also want to be positive. I don’t want to say anything negative about anybody, or anything, or anybody’s political beliefs. I’ve never done that. I’ve never tried to get involved in those things. I still don’t really feel like it. I want to keep my focus on how hard it is to get here and the work that our team has put in, and the work that the Falcons have put in, and not let anything take away from that.”

This is Brady’s seventh Super Bowl, which lends a certain credibility to his contention about focus. He was fully believable when explaining the need for perfection — “We have 70 plays left in the season,” he said — and how one mistake with a missed blitz pickup or a third-down miscommunication could cost them the game.

He chuckled when asked to reflect back to his first Super Bowl, following the 2001 season, and how different it is for him now.

“I didn’t even realize what I was going through at the moment,” he said. “We won that (AFC) Championship Game and (without a bye week) we were on that plane to New Orleans that next morning. I was scrambling then. I feel like I’m still scrambling to put together tickets for everybody and hotel rooms, a lot of logistical things. But it’s a great experience.”

If the Patriots win, I’m wondering whether Brady — he didn’t make the trip to the White House when Barack Obama was president — expects he’d celebrate with Trump.

Interrupted by a team staffer, Brady never got to answer that. The car was waiting.

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Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell