Tom Brady Stays In His Lane


For better or worse, being a superstar in a professional sports league … ahem, sorry, let’s try that lede again.


It also means that at times, you’ll be asked to wade into territory that challenges your IMAGE, your MYSTIQUE, your PROFILE … your BRAND! Such a thing happens once in a while when the unsavory side of life finds itself on center stage in the sports world.

Taking into account the week from hell the NATIONAL FOOT …. NFL just endured, New England Patriots quarterback and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady was asked about his thoughts on the calamity during his weekly WEEI radio interview yesterday. While it shouldn’t be a shock to those who have followed his career, he chose not to speak his mind about Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson or Greg Hardy.

From the Providence Journal:

“I try to stay in my lane. All of those things, none of it’s really my business or my control,” he said. “I’ve just been focusing on the games and what I can do better. The things that are taking place on other teams or league-wide decisions, those are a different pay grade than me.”

Pushed further on if he could act as a sort of spokesman for the players, Brady again took a pass.

“I certainly have a lot of personal feelings toward all those things, but it’s just, there’s nothing I can do. If I make a comment about it, there’s nothing I can do to make a difference,” he said. “The owners of the league, the commissioner of the league, the teams themselves, the players that are involved, they’re the ones that are speaking on it. It’s not really my responsibility to speak out about those things, because there are a lot of other people doing the talking.”

In saying that he’s not a voice on the non-football matters as the ones putting the league in a unflattering spotlight are, there has been the predictive mix of outrage, shrugs, reasoned observations and “I don’t care what he says as long as he’s ready for Sunday” comments. (Let us always ignore comments relating to fantasy football.)

When tragedy or struggle arises, there’s an immediate and understandable urging for some of the most prominent figures in an associated field to speak out. When those moments relate to sports figures — athletes, coaches, executives — it’s demanded that players whom are usually not asked to reflect on anything past the current and upcoming game to say something about those dark clouds hovering above their league.

Some have zero qualms letting the public know how they feel, either through some unfortunate streams of consciousness, fairly simple "yeah okay" statements or surprisingly emotional on-the-spot interviews. Others are more measured in their approach, if there is an approach in the first place. They wait a while before speaking out because they feel as if something holds them back from the initial hubbub.

However, despite the anger and frustration expressed privately, most sports figures, just like most people, sit in public silence. There are multiple reasons to name here — for starters, fears of being blackballed and ostracized, outside criticism, and sounding stupid. There is also an incredibly depressing feeling of helplessness for a situation. Here’s the thing about what Brady said that brings out the criticism. Whether we want to believe it or not, he’s not exactly wrong when saying that his voice won’t add much more heft to any decisions made by the NFL or other involved parties.

The decisions that have been made (poorly, for sure) have not been made with the considerations of the players at large in mind. Then again, outside of commissioner Roger Goodell taking some advice from Brandon Marshall regarding the domestic violence policy, it may be safe to assume that they were never asked about their opinions in those matters before. Like most of us whose perspectives on negative events aren’t solicited by those involved, Brady has an unfortunately cynical belief that what he says won’t change the outcome.

Words won’t rewind back to February before Rice struck his now-wife. They won’t go back in time to stop Peterson from going way past accepted norms of corporal punishment. They won’t keep Hardy away from tossing a now-former girlfriend onto a futon full of guns. And, even worse, the league probably won’t listen because its mind is already made up.

However, what words can and have already done is make the powers that be a little hot under the collar. Though seemingly hypocritical in some regards, some partners have already expressed concern about working with the league while others have little issue treating players as disposable cogs in their marketing plans. Maybe if Brady sought a direction to voice his displeasure with these three situations — and the larger one about Goodell’s personal conduct policy — he would have found it with the partners that help make the league a pop culture machine.

Perhaps the expectation that Brady — who has no track record of speaking on anything besides whatever is related to the Patriots’ next game or his relationships with Peyton Manning and Wes Welker — would serve as some sort of white knight for a cause or simply provide easy fodder for sports radio is a bit much.

This doesn’t mean that the man is a completely unemotional robot (I'll give you partially). The closest anyone got out of him was that he actually has his own opinions on those matters but feels that they won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. His belief that his opinion won’t matter was understandably overshadowed by the “stay in my lane” comment. Yet, despite all that has been said and analyzed in this past week-plus, that belief is far more honest than most of us are willing to admit.

While he’s still playing, Brady hasn’t and probably won’t channel LeBron James and hold some feet to the fire to show the players’ might. He’s not going to tell his teammates to wage a protest with their uniforms as the Los Angeles Clippers did. He won’t use his off-field profile in the same manner as the retired NHL agitator Sean Avery, who has probably brought more mainstream attention to homophobia in the hockey world more than any superstar ever could.

It is wishful thinking, but maybe when the dust settles down a bit, there will be some sort of way that superstars, rotating offensive linemen, practice squad players and everyone else in between can let their voices be heard on some of the serious matters that are clouding their league. Maybe instead of deferring or staying in his lane, Tom Brady himself could lead that charge as much as he’s led his teams through comebacks and championships.

As said, that's wishful thinking.

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