From WBUR and The Boston Globe: A New Sports Obsession

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In our extended trailer, host Chris Gasper and Globe sports columnist and associate editor Dan Shaughnessy discuss the NFL anthem protests.

Interview Highlights

On the Patriots' response to the NFL anthem protests

Dan Shaughnessy: The Patriots are in fact team Trump. You can go back to the quarterback with the hat in the locker, the coach writing a letter of support which was read by the candidate when he was candidate Trump a year ago, and the owner who just loves Donald Trump flying on Air Force One — [and] has a ring made for him. You have all that. Here they are. They are team Trump.

I thought that in the lead up to the games on Sunday that this was going to be a historic day in the NFL. It certainly was here.  Bob Kraft issued the statement in the morning in which he basically gave his players permission to protest, demonstrate. Then they were free to do that without being punished by the coach. And to me that was a seismic shift in philosophy in Foxborough, which was to say, 'If a guy goes out there and wants to take a knee or raise a fist or whatever it is, we're not going to punish that guy and not play him or punish him or fine him or what have you.' I don't know what went on inside the four walls of the locker room before they went out there but it was the unusual demonstration by Patriot players [that] drew the wrath of the crowd.

Chris Gasper: I think that surprised some people. I mean we are in the bluest of blue states. We always sort of joke, you and I, about Patriots fans. It's normally their team can do no wrong. They were the first ones to leap to the defense of the team. But in this particular case with the anthem protest, it was one of the first times I can really think of where the Patriots team and the players and the fans were not aligned together.

On Tom Brady's decision to speak out

CG: For Tom Brady, I mean [speaking out against the president on WEEI] qualifies as bold activism. If ever there was a player who was like the Michael Jordan of the NFL — the whole Republicans buy shoes too I don't want to alienate anybody — it's Tom. So he sort of went out on a limb a little bit here by going against Trump who is his friend, and you mentioned Robert Kraft [also responded] with critical comments.

DS: Yeah it's interesting that those two men have been more than putting their toe in the water and making — giving opinions that aren't necessarily in step with the president. Certainly the owner issuing that statement on [Sunday] morning. [Kraft] did not mention Trump by name which I thought was interesting. But he's in a box here — which he's done before. This is "Deflategate" in the political arena. During "Deflategate" he wanted to make nice with his fans and stick up for them. He also wanted to keep his relationship with the commissioner. So that put him a little bit of a conflict. I think it was the same thing on Sunday where he loves his position at the seat of power. He loves flying an Air Force One and no one loves stars more than this guy. It doesn't matter how you're famous. He loves you. So no one's more famous or powerful than the president. So Bob Kraft has that interest and he loves that. But at the same time he's got 53 players — you know, 70 percent of whom are African-Americans, who are probably not cool with what was said Friday night in Alabama. [They] are saying, 'Hey where's our owner? Who was the leader in this thing? Are we allowed to express ourselves, or is this owner going to allow the president to insult us and embarrass us and use bad words about our families?' So I think that Bob Kraft had to serve both constituencies and did a good job taking care of his players on Sunday morning.

On Bill Belichick's response

CG: I flat out asked one player who said 'I just want to talk about the game.' I said do you want just want to talk about the game, or have you been instructed to just talk about the game? There were sort of a pause and he said 'I just want to talk about the game.' It was not very convincing to be honest.

DS: And that's unfortunate and weak on the part of Bill Belichick. I would say he has been weak in this thing. He is not a weak man. ...You do not write that letter to Donald Trump and allow him to broadcast that letter on the eve of the election and then say 'I'm not political.' And then have no reaction when the same candidate who's become president insults your fans, insults your league, disparages other players, and then you stand there and say you have no opinion.  And then issue the next day a bag of words which have no meaning whatsoever — just that 'I respect my players.' Stop the presses! Every coach respects his players. That was a complete wimping out, weak move by the coach, and he should not get off the hook for it. If you want to have no opinion, just say, 'I have no opinion. I'm a weak man.'

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Josh Crane Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Josh is a producer for podcasts and new programs at WBUR.



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