The dangers of celebrating Tom Brady

You should not be allowed to flirt with fascists and then pretend “it wasn’t that serious”

Donna Conner/WireImage via Getty Image

TW: mentions anti-blackness, rapists, homophobia, and racism.

If you are saying things like “separate the player from his politics” or “game recognizes game” or“While I do not condone his racism, it's just a fact that he is a football beast” let me explain that publicly celebrating Tom Brady today is in fact you condoning his harmful behavior, and no, it does not matter if you say you aren’t at the start of your sentence.

Your privilege gives you the luxury to do that. As a survivor of sexual assault, it’s just not possible for me to “put Brady’s friendship with Trump the fascist, anti-black, homophobic, rapist, aside”. His actions are a part of who he chooses to be as a person. You don’t get to just extract his hateful actions and put them in a “for later” box while you celebrate his talents — that’s a privilege in action because his harm doesn’t affect you as directly as it affects me. Tom Brady, the person is the same guy who is Tom Brady the athlete. While his body can do athletic things it’s the same Trump-supporting mind that helps all his actions. I have noticed that (usually) you gotta actually have been a victim of severe racism or assault or experience homophobia, hate crimes to actually feel the struggle/pain. You can say “game recognizes game” with your privilege but victims recognize perpetrators, and they don’t have the luxury of “compartmentalizing” their traumas.

It’s the exact phenomenon of the entire world putting aside the fact that Tom Brady had a MAGA hat, defended Trump, defended homophobic values and racism just because he’s a good athlete? Ironically, some of the same people who are so happy Trump is out of the office and assure us they understand the damage of racism will also obtusely celebrate Brady without recognizing that they are contributing socially and culturally to a system that says no matter how much harm white men perpetrate, if they are talented, we can brush it off in the moments when we want to celebrate them. People's allegiances to rapists are harmful to society as well and are in fact playing a crucial role in letting rape culture thrive. As MLK said, it’s that white moderate that always asks marginalized people to wait for justice until it’s “convenient for whites”.

“Injustice anywhere [on any scale] is a threat to justice everywhere” is more than just something you buy on a keychain or post on Instagram for social clout. It means we have to be careful in our daily lives about who we let our ethics slide for because when we do give toxic white men “free passes” it has a ripple effect in society by showing very clearly that our support to combating racism is conditional on the next talented white guy. You might not be at the level where you supported Brock Turner the Stanford rapist because he was a “great swimmer” and “game recognizes game” but if you did publicly showcase support for someone like Tom Brady whose views were violent towards people like me then you have some personal hypocrisy to deal with. You can’t be happy Trump is gone, criticize the system for being racist and then contribute to the very system by supporting racists just cause they break athletic records. Our ethics should not be so fickle that all it takes is a white man being a “beast” at a sport means we throw ethical consistency out the window. The fact that Brady kinda pretended his Trump legacy was just a bad dream rather than taking accountability and apologizing tells me that he’s well aware of what he can get away with as a racist white guy who is a famous athlete.

Celebrating Brady does indeed contribute to a cycle of harm. Because it keeps telling the world that we will give toxic white men any number of free “passes” regardless of whether or not they hold themselves accountable for their harm to marginalized groups. Being able to “separate person and profession” is a code for letting me use my privilege to ignore the many ways in which this person has harmed your/our community by using an excuse that pretends I’m “nuanced and complex” when really I’m just trying to avoid talking about my ethical accountability.

Unless the person actually made waves and openly apologized and continues to dedicate their life to be better then it’s dangerous to keep celebrating them because it sets a precedent that white success can come at the expense of black and brown trauma and we’re all fine-looking the other way just to be able to celebrate white achievements. We tend to give white celebrities more moral credit than they actually work to maintain. So we must stay vigilant and hold them to the same standards we hold everyone else, especially people of color whose mistakes become their whole identity.

We must do better.

In life, the moment you realize you have as much to unlearn as you do to learn…you will grow the most