The NFL Is Pretending Donald Trump and Deflategate Don’t Exist
Peruse the media’s headlines from the NFL’s Super Bowl Opening Night media sessions, and one would think the entire event was spent with reporters peppering Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft about their relationship with President Donald Trump and their thoughts on commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of Deflategate.
A sampling of the stories culled from the aftermath of Monday’s event: “Tom Brady tries to dodge Trump, Goodell questions at Super Bowl” (New York Post); “Brady and Belichick spent Opening Night dodging so many questions about Trump” (USA Today); and “Kraft playing it coy over Goodell” (Sun Chronicle). Few other topics had any resonance, given the magnitude of the storylines in the world and in the league.
One might be intrigued to read the transcripts of those interviews in their entirety for proper context of each’s answer on such sensitive and highly publicized topics. Go to the NFL Communications’ Opening Night quotes section, however, and you’ll find a completely sanitized alternate reality in which such uncomfortable queries never took place.
Indeed, the Q&A’s for Brady, Belichick, and Kraft include exactly zero invocations of the proper nouns Trump, Goodell, and Deflategate. There are, however, comments on anodyne topics such as Belichick’s extolling the virtues of Andover, where he attended for a postgraduate year; Kraft boasting about the Rutgers presence on the roster; and Brady discussing his son’s selection of Falcons running back Devonta Freeman for his fantasy team. All scintillating answers, to be sure.
Only with some effort can one infer the context of some otherwise oblique comments, such as Brady saying the hunt for his fifth Super Bowl title is special “because it’s this year.” There’s a
stray reference to him missing four games—i.e. his Deflategate suspension—but the only included answer was, “The team was 3-1 at that point, so I didn’t want to screw it up. The team was playing great. I just wanted to come in and do my job as best I could.”
In real life, Kraft was asked about Deflategate but the transcript only refers to an answer about “being outspoken in defense of his franchise,” to which he said, “I think our family was involved, or accused of being involved, in something that was mishandled and inappropriate, became a big distraction.”
A league spokesman told the New York Times that no quotes were edited and that they aren’t intended to be full encapsulations, just quick highlights—only they skipped all the actual highlights.
The NFL continues to be ultra-sensitive about its image, to the point of ignoring reality. No one benefits from this, and in fact the league’s defensive stance only heightens the interest.