Should we care who our athletes vote for?

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Should we care who our athletes vote for?

Jason Green, Sports Editor

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As Tom Brady continues to make the media rounds following his record-breaking fifth Super Bowl victory, the incessant amount of questions from the endless number of talk-radio hosts has led to more and more political talk outside of the realm of sports.

Brady sounds like a very smart University of Michigan-educated man when he talks about the Xs and Os of the Patriots’ world-beating offense and Bill Belichek’s play calling that can stump even the best defenses in the NFL. That is exactly what we want to hear out of the mouth of Brady. However, more of Brady’s words are outside of that “realm of sports” that he is so good at residing in.

On Valentine’s Day, Brady spoke out, presumably in reference to six teammates who have already said that they will skip the traditional Super Bowl champions’ visit to the White House.

“It really is a great experience,” Brady told NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “Putting politics aside, it never was a political thing. At least it never was to me. It was something that was a privilege to do.”

The funny thing is, until recently, Brady hasn’t always put politics aside.

Google “Tom Brady” and “Make America Great Again” and up pops dozens of pictures of a smiling Brady at his locker, surrounded by media, with the fiery red symbol of Trump’s campaign prominently displayed in his locker. These images were taken during the campaign back when Brady was proud of his friendship with Trump and Trump often tweeted—as he has been known to do from time to time—about his great friendship with the championship quarterback.

Fast-forward to Super Bowl week and Brady is surprisingly apolitical.

“If people want to take sides, you know, they can do that,” said the fair and balanced Brady when talking to USA Today Sports. “It’s everyone’s right. They have a right to do that, and I have a right to stay out of it, too. I want to keep my focus on where it should be for me at this moment.”

Now, that the big game is over, Brady can finally get back to telling his teammates who aren’t going to visit the wall-building, Muslim-banning, misogynistic, racist-in-chief that they are wrong for not visiting him, because it’s not about politics…it’s about the experience.

An experience, by the way, that Brady skipped out on when President Obama was in office, due to a “scheduling conflict.”

So, the question is, do we want our athletes to remain just athletes? Or would we rather have athlete-activists?

In the 1990 Senate race for North Carolina, Democratic candidate Harvey Gantt reached out to Michael Jordan, as a fellow African-American, for an endorsement against famed incumbent Senator Jesse Helms, once described in a 2001 Washington Post piece by journalist David Broder as “the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country.”

Jordan would not give Gantt his endorsement, and Gantt went on to lose the election to Helms by the slimmest of margins. Jordan reportedly told a friend soon after that, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” referring to the famous Jordan line of basketball shoes.

Never has there been a president more divisive than Donald Trump, it seems safe to say. His actions, in just a month in office, have given athletes a chance to show that they will not stay quiet if they feel the need to speak up.

The captain of the U.S. soccer team, Michael Bradley, said he was “sad and embarrassed” over Trump’s immigration ban. Several other U.S. team players followed his example, as well as other Olympians. In all honesty, though, there were no Jordan level players speaking out.

When it comes to the Brady’s and Jordan’s of the sports world, maybe it doesn’t matter if we want them speaking up or not, and maybe it is their endorsements that determine ultimately what they take a stand for. Do they only stand for the bottom line?

Honestly, the biggest sports celebrity who spoke critically of Trump in the first month was NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., which is even more shocking considering the NASCAR fan base (and Tom Brady) probably single-handedly keep the “Make America Great Again” hat companies in business.

Athletes have taken stands for ideals—and knees, in the case of Colin Kaepernick—but even more so now, we have begun to see some athletes take stands against (or for) politicians.

Do we care? I do. The Super Bowl was far more fun for me, without a dog in the fight, to pull against the Patriots and their Trump-loving quarterback and Trump-loving coach and Trump himself! Honestly, I would have been a lot more accepting of Brady if he had just taken a stand. Say “Yes, I support Trump. You saw the hat. I supported him back then, I still do.”

It’s the pussyfooting (pun-intended) around it that is the problem. It’s the same for Michael Jordan. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will get a lot more respect for people knowing where he stands. The same for Michael Bradley and a lot of his teammates. Just be honest.

Most of all, let your heart guide you and not your wallet.