Before Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee before NFL games to protest American-perpetrated injustices against subjugated people. Before Kaepernick decided to donate a million dollars to charities across the country. Before Kaepernick donned a Fidel Castro shirt. Before Kaepernick was accused of disrespecting America’s troops. There was Tom Brady and his hat.
In September of 2015, Tom Brady took his customary questions from reporters in front of his Patriots locker, but this time he’d had a new ornament: a “Make America Great Again” hat. A symbol of Donald Trump’s then-improbable hopes of becoming President. The hat placement drew attention from the media who saw it as an endorsement of the candidate who had already falsely and famously connected Mexican immigration to crime. Brady, for his part, dismissed most questions about the hat, simply remarking that he and Trump had been friends for a long time.
Since Brady put Trump’s hat on his locker, Donald Trump, of course, has become President of The United States. Trump has also claimed to have grabbed women by their pussies whenever he felt like it. He’s insulted Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, LGBTQ people and pretty much everyone who doesn’t look like a Third Reich recruit. Through it all, Trump has espoused his friendship with Brady (and Patriots owner Robert Kraft) and even said the Patriot QB called him to congratulate him on his political success.
Brady, for his part, doesn’t see what the big deal is, as he’s deflected any deep discussion about the friendship and what it means to be close to someone like Donald Trump. Here’s what he said to WEEI’s The Kirk and Callahan Show:
“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”
Brady was confused as to why his relationship with the president was even a relevant topic of discussion.
“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it.”
Brady’s obliviousness reeks of white privilege and dismissiveness; a #MAGA trait if there ever was one. But what’s most troubling is the way Brady’s Trump endorsement has been treated compared to Kaepernick’s political statements.
When Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand for the National Anthem, he was immediately marked as un-American ― as someone who was anti-troops and held little regard for America. The 49ers quarterback has responded thoughtfully, with donations and repeated acknowledgement of the troops’ role in protecting the country. In fact, Kaepernick exercising his right to protest to protect innocent Americans is as patriotic a gesture possible. Kaep’s reward for his actions? Vilification, death threats and accusations of hating America. His political stand was one of the top stories, if not the top story, in the NFL this season.
Brady’s Trump endorsement, however, has been largely ignored when, in fact, supporting Donald Trump as President of The United States is far more threatening to America than taking a knee during the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick disrespected the troops? Donald Trump, upon taking office, has already proposed a federal hiring freeze, affecting thousands of jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. During his campaign, Trump criticized John McCain for being a POW. And he’s said that suicides happen to members of the military who “can’t handle it.”
Colin Kaepernick wore a shirt depicting a ruthless dictator? Donald Trump wants to deprive millions of healthcare, open a Muslim registry, suppress voting and deport millions of citizens. And as we speak, he is violating the constitution by maintaining business ties to foreign countries while holding office. It doesn’t get more un-American than violating the Constitution.
By placing Trump’s hat in front of media members, Brady was endorsing his billionaire buddy and everything his politics entail. And these politics are far more deadly and corrosive to the United States than any policy Kaepernick has publicly supported. Donald Trump is objectively and undeniably un-American. So is supporting him.
It’s time to really ask why, then, has Brady’s endorsement of and friendship with Trump been treated so differently from Kaepernick’s protests. And what do we really believe in? If the outrage about Kaepernick is really about respecting the troops, then Brady should be held to the same fire for supporting a man with such disregard for the men and women who fight for this country. If it’s about the amorphous idea of respecting the flag, then we have to hold Brady accountable for backing someone with so little respect for the laws of the country. The obvious answer, which is also the answer that got us in this mess to begin with, is simple: for far too long America has been too uncomfortable with a Black man standing for his beliefs and far too accepting of a white man expressing his, no matter whom his beliefs end up harming in the process.
But there’s still time. The Super Bowl is in a week and a half. There’s still time to question Brady about his un-American beliefs and treat him like the media treated Kaepernick. Then we’ll really see how well he holds up under pressure.
This piece has been republished with permission from The Crew on Medium.