Tom Brady held a two-hour interview with Howard Stern on Wednesday morning and came out the other end saying nothing of value or substance. It wasn’t a softball interview, and Stern asked dozens of pointed questions, but Brady decided to dodge anything even remotely controversial — then managed to say controversial things when he didn’t intend to. It was a mess.
Brady was silent throughout conflict in the NFL surrounding race relations and social justice started by Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and dozens of other NFL players. A voice like Brady’s would have carried weight, but he chose to remain quiet. Now, removed from the situation by time and geography, he doubled down on saying nothing. When asked by Stern about race in the NFL, Brady said:
“I never saw race. I think sports transcends race. It transcends wealth. It transcends all that. You get to know and appreciate what someone else may bring. When you’re in a locker room with 50 guys, you don’t think about race because you’re all the same at that point”
Brady is not qualified to talk about the impact of race in sports. While it might be nice for him to say he doesn’t see race, which is cliched beyond all imagination, it’s unquestionable that many of his colleagues in the NFL, especially people of color, didn’t see that “sports transcend race” when they chose to kneel with Kaepernick and potentially risk their livelihoods by speaking out.
Brady has never been in a position of being marginalized, and it shows when he makes comments like this. He had the luxury of being in a position where he could say “we’re all the same,” because he didn’t need to confront prejudice during his 20-year NFL career. By saying nothing of substance, he said everything: the issue doesn’t matter to him, because it doesn’t affect him. Brady just didn’t have the honesty to say it.
When it came to protecting the NFL, however, Brady had strong feelings. Despite numerous studies and findings about the risks of youth football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Brady said he would have his kids play football. Apparently because contact sports teach lessons that other sports can’t.
“There’s something about contact sports that teaches about respect, routine, discipline, teamwork that you don’t get from non-contact sports.”
This is a wholly bizarre claim that makes no sense. Try asking an Olympic gymnast who has spent their lives perfecting their craft whether they have routine or discipline. Ask a relay sprinter or a team cyclist if they understand respect or teamwork. Outside the sports realm Brady is somehow saying that people who participate in contact sports have a heightened understanding of these basic, core concepts that others simply can’t grasp — which is beyond ridiculous.
The most revealing things Brady was willing to talk about was middling anecdotes and boring locker room stories that will be blown up as revelations from a quarterback “letting loose.” Stuff about his swollen testicles (Matt Cassel nicknamed him “purple balls”) and open locker room showers (“Every guys’ penis looks the exact same”). When it came time to say something that could make an impact, Brady shied away.
When asked about the current coronavirus pandemic his response was to caution people against just staying at home, and implored them to ignore “crazy, nasty, fearful media reports.” An on-brand answer from the game’s biggest star: Put your head in the sand, ignore the situation and wait for it to all go away.
Another opportunity squandered to make an impact. Another decision to avoid controversy. Another chance to hawk your self-help lifestyle brand. Another bland Brady interview.