President Trump set the sports world on fire Friday night when he blasted the “son of a b****” national anthem protesters and called on fans to “leave the stadium” if they saw any players kneeling. While the response from most of the league and virtually all of the sports commentators was predictable, the reactions of two of Trump’s so far most faithful defenders was not. Both New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and living legend quarterback Tom Brady have joined the chorus of condemnations of Trump’s “divisive” comments.
Before pulling off yet another game-winning drive on Sunday, during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Brady linked arms with his fellow Patriots, seventeen of whom knelt while the others stood arm-in-arm in “solidarity” with their America-protesting peers. The protest was met with loud, prolonged boos from fans, something Trump noted in one of his many #BoycottNFL tweets.
On Monday, Brady spoke with the Kirk & Callahan show about his decision to show solidarity with the protests and echoed the sentiments of both the owner of his team and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive,” Brady said. “Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me. That is how I try and live every day.”
Asked if he noticed all the boos raining down on the players as they refused to stand to honor the anthem, Brady said, “Yeah, I did,” but added, “I think everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do. If you don’t agree, that is fine. You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It’s part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about.”
In a statement Sunday, Kraft, who became a close friend of Trump in 2011 after his wife Myra died, said he was “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s comments.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” said the owner of the league’s most successful team. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger.”
Kraft suggested Trump could learn something from the NFL and the sports world, which he described as the nation’s greatest “unifier.”
“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” said Kraft. “I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
While Trump’s decision to insert himself into the debate and call for a boycott of the league is a terrible idea for a sitting president and has only reinvigorated what was a quickly fading movement, the reality is he isn’t to blame for the politicization of the NFL. The league has brought this whole “divisive” debacle on itself by handling political issues in a way that begs people to view it as ideological driven in one very obvious direction. In fact, here’s more on that: