By David J. Leonard | @drdavidjleonard | with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Friday, May 15, 2015.
Brady demonstrates the unflinching power of whiteness in contemporary America.
Black people are punished and demonized for cheating. White men like Tom Brady
get to do all sorts of shit for a competitive edge and they are gaming the
system. This is yet another demonstration of white privilege.
the NFL released the Wells Report, which concluded that Tom Brady – America’s
quarterback, its golden boy, Giselle’s husband, and the man who ‘shut up’
Richard Sherman up with a 2015 super bowl victory – was a cheater. Commissioned
by the NFL, the Wells Report looked into accusations that members of the Patriots
organization conspired to circumvent league rules governing game balls.
Specifically, it found the following:
is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in
violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to
circumvent the rules.
on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom
Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities involving
the release of air from Patriots game balls.
the narrative that emerged has focused on how, at worst, he made a mistake;
that if the accusations were indeed true, it was a lapse in judgment since Tom
has ‘integrity,’ and is a ‘good boy.’
common has been a focus on an unfair and arbitrary process, on the morally
bankrupt NFL and the fascism of commissioner Roger Goodell. Indeed, Tom Brady
is the first player to deal with an unjust system, to endure the hypocrisy of
Goodell’s NFL. Their selective outrage is telling.
he were Black, people would be calling him a criminal and saying his behavior
reflected some innate values. They would blame hip-hop, single mothers, and the
culture of poverty: if a Black player, the conversation wouldn’t be about
Goodell or the system, but how the lack of a work ethic and morals led him to
cut corners, to win ‘by any means necessary.’ If he were Black, the
conversation would turn to affirmative action and how he was forced to cheat
because he lacked the skills needed to excel at this elite level.
Tom Brady is white; No wonder the report and the announcement of a 4-game
suspension have led many into the virtual streets.
Brady’s life matters”
Gregory, channeling narratives about white victimhood, wrote, “It’s actually
pretty easy to pick on the cool kid. You don’t come across as a bully.” No,
it’s pretty easy to brutalize the poor, and to abuse the powerless; it’s easy
to take a Black life, and then blame them for their own death.
have asked, ‘what’s the big deal? It wasn’t much of advantage and besides he
has been won plenty without such advantage.’
have acknowledged that he may have violated NFL rules, but is it a rule that
really matters? Besides everyone is doing it. As sports commentator Jim Rome
has long said, “If you are not cheating, you are not trying.” But if you are
white, cheating is not really cheating but merely an effort to get an edge, to
garner a competitive advantage, and no big deal.
harm, no foul.
white athletes, like Brady, what happens in the locker room is supposed to stay
in the locker room.
black athletes, cheating, whether performance enhancing drugs or taking “easy A classes,” is a sign of moral and communal failure.
months ago, Little League Baseball stripped Jackie Robinson West of its title
because of allegations of cheating. Despite violating a ridiculous and
arbitrary that allowed a few kids
from out of district to play on the team, a punishment was warranted and
within the sports media and the public fomented outrage. ‘Rules are rules,’ we
were told. There is no excuse for cheating and not following the established
rule. It doesn’t matter that everyone is doing it. It didn’t matter that the
kids from Jackie Robinson West didn’t get an advantage. Rules are rules and if
you break them there are consequences.
punishment directed at Jackie Robinson was necessary because it sent a message
to kids that cheating has consequences. I guess these same concerns don’t apply
to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Their cheating isn’t a sign of eroding values;
their wanton disregard for the rules isn’t a threat to our moral fabric.
what about the kids? You would think by the very differential responses that
Tom Brady is not a role model.
truth is that many Americans have a dishearteningly high tolerance for cheating
in professional sports,” writes The Chicago Tribune. We dismiss the evidence. We make excuses. Sammy
didn't know that bat was corked! Who can prove all those players used steroids?
Everyone puts a bit of Vaseline on the ball now and then. What's the big deal
about letting a little air out of a football?”
separate and racially unequal acceptance of “cheating” extends beyond the sporting
landscape. Look no further than what Michelle Alexander terms the “New Jim Crow.”
According to the American Bar Association, while Black account for 14 percent
of all drug users they make up 34 percent of all drug arrests, and a whopping
53 percent of those given prison sentences for a drug offense. White kids
getting high, popping Adderall, and selling dime bags is nothing to worry.
Their cheating, or law breaking, is neither a threat nor seen as necessary of punishment.
Blacks drug dealers are dangerous thugs, white Wall Street executives are smart
businessman working under the rules of capitalism
Black kids taking diapers are looters, those who have stolen land, resources,
and so much more are patriots
Brady, and white America as a whole, we have been told over and over again that
there needs proof, indisputable evidence that “America’s golden boy,” it’s
anti-criminal, is a cheater.
demonstrates yet again that whites are innocent … until proven innocent. Any
evidence to contrary proves that the system is flawed, that we have a
miscarriage of justice.
don’t even come at him with circumstantial evidence. In a nation where video
after video of white police officers killing unarmed black men and women has
prompted neither arrest much less conviction, circumstantial evidence has
little chance of penetrating the Teflon power of whiteness.
only the same rules applied to Barry Bonds, who to date has never tested
positive for performance enhancing drugs.
only the same rules applied to Freddie Gray, who looked at an officer funny in
the wrong, prompting his arrest and ultimate death.
2012, Tom Brady got into a heated argument with an assistant coach. Dismissed
as no big deal and a sign of his “passion for the game,” he remained the
league’s “golden boy.” Compare this to endless examples of Black athletes who
have routinely demonized at any instance where they challenged their coach.
When Brady talks trash to his opponents, it is a sign of his
competitiveness; Richard Sherman, on the other hand, is a “thug” who doesn’t
respect the game.
racial double standards are endless. It is no wonder that Brady and his
supporters are outraged. He's being penalized despite playing by the rules of
America’s ultimate game, where white is always right.
David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical
Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman.
Leonard's latest books include After Artest: The NBA and the
Assault on Blackness (SUNY Press), African Americans on Television:
Race-ing for Ratings (Praeger Press) co-edited with Lisa Guerrero and Beyond Hate: White Power and Popular
Culture with C. Richard King. He is currently working on a book Presumed
Innocence: White Mass Shooters in the Era of Trayvon about gun violence in
America. You can follow him
on Twitter at @drdavidjleonard.