How Tom Brady’s Empty Answers on Trump and Race Speak Volumes
The NFL legend—and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback—opened up to Howard Stern this week about race (“I never saw race”) and his “pal” Trump. It wasn’t pretty.
The novel coronavirus has reset our priorities in troubling times, and made the enterprise of taking pot shots at, for instance, Tom Brady seem unimportant. We are bound together in a life or death struggle against disease, the incompetence of our government, and an increasing sense of the tenuousness of our economic structure. Surely, whatever crap is presently coming out of the newly-minted Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback’s mouth is useless to the reader, to all readers, and can be safely ignored in the wake of the worst world pandemic in over a century, you ask. Surely, we can just sit on our hands and wait for the NFL season to start, wherein we will finally see Brady, clad in the weird uniform of a subpar organization, getting his 43-year-old ass tossed into the turf by every edge rusher in the NFL.
But, reader, I will be damned before I let this son-of-a-bitch virus prevent me from giving you the opportunity to spend some time away from CoronaWorld, and in the luxurious confines of soothing, velvety dogging on Tom Brady, who is wack as hell and has been since he left Bridget Moynahan, an underrated screen presence, while she was pregnant with their first child.
This week, Brady appeared on The Howard Stern Show. I don’t really know why public figures appear on Stern in the first place, given how he is a journalism demon who lulls you into a fugue state wherein you become totally unconcerned with showing your ass, but hey, he did it, and now we’re here to pick up the pieces. Tell me, Tommy, how do you feel… about race? Any racial tension in the locker room?
“Never. Never once have I felt like that’s the point. 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.”
There’s a lot of pretty terrible, ignorant-ass white people out there. Some examples include: video-game streamer PewDiePie, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and Hercules star Kevin Sorbo, among others. But I think upon reading this paragraph, that we can all come together and declare that Tom Brady is one of the single worst white people, and was engineered in a lab to fulfill that purpose.
I mean, that or he just didn’t pay attention to the NFL for the last ten or so years, which I guess is possible but seems profoundly unlikely. For everyone who isn’t familiar with the profound racial divisions in the NFL, I offer a brief primer. Colin Kaepernick was functionally blackballed from the sport for a silent protest on behalf of the cause of racial justice, an action that has broadly engaged players to activism, much to the league’s chagrin. The sport has, on purpose or by accident, continued to construct rosters with a downright phrenological eye, seeming to cast on-field roles by race and then working backward to plug in whatever other on-field skills they need from there. And hey, if race doesn’t divide locker rooms, then what’s up with baseball and its well-documented inner-clubhouse racial cliques?
Brady’s second assertion, that sports transcend money and binds men of every class, is somehow even stupider.
In his wonderful new book about the dynastic Golden State Warriors The Victory Machine, out next week, writer Ethan Sherwood Straus documents the anxieties and neuroses of Kevin Durant, who, even while he was on a winning team playing as a dominant unit, was dogged by concerns about his broader portfolio, including a nagging anxiety that no matter what kind of success he manages in Golden State, he is still destined to play second fiddle to Steph Curry in the hearts of Bay Area fans, and LeBron James in the hearts and pocketbooks of Nike execs. The idea that the common cause of victory exceeds all material concerns is BS—the kind of stuff you only peddle if you’re an athlete giving a canned answer or a hack sportswriter. Victory only goes so far as a salve for self-interest.
But there’s just no way Brady knows any of this, because he is literally one of the most privileged people in the universe—a white man who attended prep school in a position of dominant power at his job and in his life; a winner who regards class and racial conflict as a foreign thing that doesn’t affect him. People in power loathe any kind of conflict that might call their power or wealth into question, and for Brady, the source of his power and wealth is success on a football field—he tells Stern that he would let his kids play football, in case you were wondering; can’t betray the shield he’s been surfing on for the last 20 years, I guess—and anything that detracts from that is a mere distraction, unfit for his eyes.
Which is probably why, when our moron president was starting to whip up racist frenzies around the country, he made casual gestures of support to Trump because, hey, he’s a “pal.”
Brady expressed some regret about this to Stern: “I got brought into a lot of those things because it was so polarizing around the election time. It was uncomfortable for me. You can’t undo things. And not that I would undo a friendship, but the political support is totally different than the support of a friend. I didn’t want to get into all the political—there’s zero win in anything in regards to that, it’s politics…I got brought together in a locker room where I was always trying to get along with everybody. I feel like in an outward sense, when you start talking about politics, it’s about how do you not bring people together? Which is the opposite of what politics should have always been in our country.”
Once again, this is horseshit. NFL locker rooms are intense political places, especially post-Kaepernick. But even to the extent that Brady is expressing some truly-held belief, it’s really just startlingly ignorant. Sticking a MAGA hat in your locker room as a cheeky tip of the hat to a dude who is floating around the country being a hatemonger is one of two things: an implicit endorsement of that hatemongering, or a plain admission that you’re just completely unconcerned with the lives of other people—people who might, hear me out, get run the hell over and dismantled by hatemongering. But then again, considering his other answers here, it’s pretty apparent that Brady is just drifting about, blissfully unaware of the feelings or thoughts of the little people who operate underneath him.
In the interview, Stern asks Brady about showering with his fellow man, a common practice in athletics. He tries to act like it’s all cool to him at first, but, since Stern is truth serum in human form, he just can’t help himself:
“Think about in today’s day and age, too, how different that is. Because when we were—25 years ago, it was so natural to do that. And now, the idea of a bunch of people showering together, you kinda think like, why are we still doing this? I mean this is so, like, not the way it should be anymore. Like, can we put up some dividers please? And then you go into lockers that are newer and they have those and you’re like, oh, this is so much more comfortable.”
Brady, in exposing his neurosis about the bodies of his fellow teammates, exposes the truth of his time at the top. Sure, we’re all together in this, but why do I have to see the hogs, real and metaphorical, of my fellow man? These floppy dangling intimacies are disconcerting for the king; a distraction, best ignored in the pursuit of victory.