Tomase: It looks like Donald Trump has a Patriots problem

John Tomase
September 25, 2017 - 12:19 pm
Tom Brady and Robert Kraft

Jim Rogash/Getty Images


The Patriots, we were once memorably told, have a Trump problem.

Maybe there's still time to fix it.

Football's signature franchise may not have been at the forefront of the resistance over the weekend, but even its belated words carry considerable weight.

No team in any sport was more tied to Trump during the campaign. Quarterback Tom Brady featured a Make America Great Again hat in his locker. Head coach Bill Belichick handwrote the president a letter of recommendation and let him read it at a New Hampshire rally. Owner Robert Kraft reveled in his access to the gilded elevators and marble decadence of Trump Tower.

They knew Trump as a friend, a golfing buddy, a fellow billionaire. I'd imagine the Trump they saw backstage at Miss America, or during a guest appearance on The Apprentice, was nothing like the angry, divisive persona he has ratcheted up like a wrestling heel as president.

And yet here we were on Sunday, with all eyes on NFL stadiums across the country, thanks to Trump's contention during an Alabama rally that any player who knelt for the national anthem was a "son of a bitch" who should be fired.

Putting aside the ugly fact that Trump was speaking to an angry white crowd in the deep south, and putting aside the unspoken plantation mentality of black men doing what they're told in the service of their white masters, at its most basic level, Trump's rhetoric was an attack on free speech.

Angry condemnations poured in from around the sports world, especially once Trump disinvited the NBA champion Warriors from their White House visit because superstar Steph Curry had suggested the team would stay home. LeBron James called Trump, "U bum." Running back LeSean McCoy went with A-hole. NFL owners began speaking up, too.

The Patriots didn't lead the critical charge, but eventually the team released a statement from owner Robert Kraft castigating Trump. "I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday," Kraft said, earning what sure looked like a middle finger from Trump on the tarmac in an interview broadcast by MSNBC.

Brady ever so slightly escalated the rhetoric on Monday's appearance with K&C, saying, "I certainly disagree with what he said. I just thought it was divisive."

Brady may not be Malcolm X when it comes to outrage, and "divisive" may be a safer word than the equally applicable "hateful," but his words still hit home, making headlines around the world. Here's the face of the NFL, and the player most closely aligned with Trump in the minds of fans, rebuking him, albeit gently.

This is how resistance works -- one inch at a time. At some point, Sen. Joseph McCarthy's red-baiting stopped scaring anyone. There came a time when the Rev. Martin Luther King's peaceful protests and marches simply couldn't be ignored. Eventually, the Berlin Wall fell.

The Patriots aren't activists, nor should we expect them to be. But they can lend their powerful voices to obvious causes when warranted, and on Friday, the president attacked their league at its most fundamental level, because the NFL quite literally doesn't exist without its players.

So on Sunday, Bob Kraft spoke. On Monday, Tom Brady made a courageous decision -- despite his best attempts to keep his brand apolitical -- to throw his hat into the ring and say what was right.

In both cases, Kraft and Brady said what needed to be said, knowing it will cost them with the Grudge Keeper In Chief. That's called progress, and maybe others will follow their example.

Speaking of hats, two years ago this month, Brady displayed a Make America Great Again one in his locker. I think we can agree that given a mulligan, TB12 would toss that thing straight in the trash.