Will Tom Brady use his broadcast platform to promote player rights?
In Playmakers, I try to get fans to better understand what it means to be a player in the NFL. That it’s much harder than it seems. That it’s not nearly as glamorous as it looks. That there aren’t nearly as many millionaires and most fans presume.
Fans routinely line up behind the billionaires whenever a struggle emerges between teams and players. While plenty of that is a natural consequence of rooting for a team, it’s still important to understand where players are coming from.
Players generally, and specifically, deserve more than they’re getting. If nothing else, they deserve greater understanding as they try to parlay limited opportunities to get paid into fair compensation for their services.
Enter Tom Brady. The mere fact that Fox can and will pay him $37.5 million per year to talk about football shows how much cash is in the sport’s broader ecosystem. There’s more than anyone realizes, but teams will hide behind the straw man of the salary cap in order to not give players what they deserve -- even though the cap keeps going up and up and up.
How will Brady address issues involving player rights from the broadcast booth? Last year, he emerged as the leading voice in the push to get players to boycott voluntary offseason workouts. (His predecessor at Fox, Troy Aikman, believed that Brady was simply trying to get a strategic advantage, by getting other teams to be less prepared for the season.)
Remember what Brady said about a 17th game? “I think it’s pointless,” he declared in November. “I thought it was a terrible decision. . . . I’ve been pretty vocal about NFL issues over the last couple of years and some of the things that are done that I don’t necessarily think are in the best interests of the game.”
Will he still be vocal as a broadcast? If there’s a player who is caught in a disciplinary issue with the NFL, will Brady say something like, “Well, Kevin, I know how the league operates. They pick the conclusion and work backward to justify it. I expect them to do that here. Everyone watching at home should, too.”
If Brady does that, unpleasant phone calls will be made from 345 Park Avenue to Fox headquarters. Brady, unlike others who are from time to time the subject of such complaints (e.g., me), has the power to stand firm. To push back. To challenge the NFL from a bully pulpit for which he’ll be paid 37.5 percent of a billion dollars.
He can become the most powerful voice in football, if he chooses to use his platform not to kowtow to the NFL but to call the league out when it needs to be called out. Here’s hoping Brady takes full advantage of the voice he’ll have. He has the opportunity to become a force for the best interests of the game and everyone attached to it, specifically the players.