BOSTON (CBS) — Drew Brees found himself catching a lot of heat in the past 24 hours for his stance against players taking a knee during the national anthem. He has since apologized for his comments and vowed to do more listening to his fellow players.
Among the many offshoots of Brees’ commentary was a demand from many people for Tom Brady to say something. Brady of course played for 20 seasons as part of an organization that managed to generate controversy on a regular basis. The added aspect of Brady’s friendship with Donald Trump (and the “Make America Great Again” hat that hung in his locker in 2015) has led to a number of people jumping to certain conclusions about the way Brady feels about the matter. Brady’s current silence has seemingly only confirmed their suspicions.
And when Aaron Rodgers made a public comment on Instagram, the calls for Brady to speak up intensified.
Yet Brady has indeed spoken out about players protesting during the national anthem, and his commentary might surprise some of those people.
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what [Trump] said. I thought it was just divisive,” Brady told WEEI in September 2017, after Trump’s “get that son of a bitch off the field” comment. “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.”
Brady continued at the time: “I have been blessed to be in locker rooms with guys from all over the United States over the course of my career. Some of my great friends are from Florida, Virginia, New York, Montana, Colorado, Texas. The one thing about football is it brings so many guys together — guys you would never have the opportunity to be around. Whether it was in college, and all the way into the pros. We’re all different, we’re all unique. That is what makes us all special.”
Regarding the booing from Patriots fans when several Patriots took a knee during the national anthem, Brady said: “Yeah, I did [hear]. No, 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 the offseason following that 2017 season, Brady sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Once again, the topic of national anthem protests came up.
“I think there were a lot of good, healthy conversations coming out of it in our locker room,” Brady told Oprah in the spring of 2018. “The great part about sports are the relationships, and I’ve been in it for a long time. I’ve been with guys from all different parts of the country. Every color, race, belief. And you know what? You respect what other people — I do, I respect why people are doing what they’re doing. And they’re doing it for different reasons. And that’s OK.
“You can do things for your reason, they can do things for their reasons, and you have respect for that. But I thought it was great.”
He added: “Yeah we had meetings after practice, talking about how we wanted to deal with that particular situation in time, taking a knee. We chose to lock arms and we put arms around each other. We support what people are going through. I’ve been playing sports long enough — everyone comes from something different. I think showing respect for everybody is — in a locker room with a team with guys trying to go in the same direction, you better have that empathy. That’s what sports are all about.”
Brady has of course since moved on from New England, now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s taken a slightly increased role in publicly pushing for causes related to social justice and racial equality, and given the state of affairs in the U.S., he’ll likely need to continue that as he continues his career in 2020.