On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9, marking the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory since 2003.
Tom Brady — in his first season since leaving the New England Patriots — brought home his fifth Super Bowl MVP award, and seventh Super Bowl title, giving him more championships than any other player or franchise.
Brady was efficient throughout the evening, going 21-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a moment in the waning seconds of the first half that had social media buzzing after the game.
Following his third touchdown pass — a 1-yard strike to Antonio Brown — viewers saw Brady in a shouting match on the field with Chiefs safety Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu.
Tyrann Mathieu and Tom Brady going at it
— Beyond The Bleachers (@BeyondBleachers) February 8, 2021
The altercation began after Mathieu ran towards Brady following the play, pointing a finger in his face while appearing to taunt him. Brady chased after Mathieu and could be seen on camera shouting in his direction before teammates and officials stepped in between them.
Mathieu was deemed the aggressor by officials, who called a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
.@TomBrady and @Mathieu_Era are going at it all game.pic.twitter.com/3pPIKFagol
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 8, 2021
While it was initially unclear what was said, after the game, Mathieu alleged it was serious.
In a tweet alluding to the incident, he said, “He called me something I won’t repeat but yeah I’ll let all the media throw me under the bus as if I did something or said something to him… go back to my previous games against TB12 I showed him nothing but respect. Look at my interviews about him… I show grace.”
Mathieu elaborated on the incident in a post-game Zoom interview, saying “I never really saw that side of Tom Brady, to be honest. But whatever. I’m over it. No comment.”
Mathieu’s tweet, which many online perceived as a tacit allegation of racism, was soon deleted. While Mathieu has yet to give a reason for removing the tweet, Twitter users were quick to point out the likelihood of Brady having been “mic’d up” during the game, meaning Mathieu’s allegations could easily be confirmed or disproved.
A similar situation arose during the 2019 season after Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett accused Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph of calling him a racial slur in the moments leading up to a brawl in which Garrett removed Rudolph’s helmet and struck him in the head.
The NFL later issued a statement saying they were unable to find any evidence to corroborate such allegations.