As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, one question that has almost nothing to do with football has returned to the headlines: How does Tom Brady feel about Donald Trump?
The Buccaneers quarterback famously – or infamously – displayed a Make America Great Again cap in his locker back in 2015, when Trump was still running for president. When asked whether he thought Trump could win the election, Brady replied, “I hope so. That would be great”.
Since then, however, the athlete has chosen to keep quiet about his politics, leaving some room for doubt about what those comments meant. He’s been photographed golfing with Trump in the past, and Trump aide Hope Hicks once said the two men “have a great friendship and have for many years”. So was Brady really endorsing Trump as a candidate for office, or merely supporting his friend? He won’t say.
It’s that ambiguity that infuriates USA Today columnist Nancy Armour, whose latest op-ed has sparked a whole new corollary of controversy.
“Brady’s ability to enter and exit the debate at his choosing, to shield himself from accountability, is the height of white privilege,” she writes. According to Armour, only white celebrities are afforded such a generous benefit of the doubt when it comes to political advocacy. Colin Kaepernick, she points out, is still being “blackballed” for speaking out against police brutality.
Shannon Sharpe drew a similar analogy on his sports commentary show, Undisputed.
“LeBron James can never say – a prominent Black athlete can never say – ‘Minister Farrakhan is just my friend,’” Sharpe said, referring to Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader. “They’d try to cancel anybody with the just mere mention of Mr. Farrakhan’s name.”
Others have rushed to the former Patriot’s defence.
“Why does a professional football player need to answer to the sports press for his political preferences?” Fox News anchor Brit Hume asked on Twitter.
To Armour and Sharpe’s accusations, Brady has responded with more ambiguity.
“I’m not sure how to respond to hypothetical questions like that,” he told USA Today. “I hope everyone can … we’re in this position, like I am, to try to be the best I can be every day as an athlete, as a player, as a person in my community for my team and so forth. So … yeah. Not sure what else.”
If that’s his answer, it seems unlikely we’ll know the truth by Sunday.