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Martellus Bennett is only Patriot with guts to address Donald Trump

01.31.17 at 7:01 pm ET
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Martellus Bennett (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Martellus Bennett (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate sports from politics. The biggest story of the NFL season was Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, and NBA stars continue to immerse themselves in social activism. Given the chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency so far, it’s difficult to see this pattern changing any time soon.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, much to their apparent chagrin, are also at the center of this convergence. All three men have fawned over Trump at various points this year: Brady called him a “good friend,” Belichick wrote him an endorsement letter that he read aloud the night before the election, Kraft said his policies are going to be “great for America.” But when they’ve been asked about Trump in most public settings, they’ve sidestepped the questions. This behavior continued at Super Bowl opening night, with Brady at one point claiming to have no idea what’s going on in the world.

Sports owners and figures aren’t obligated to take social stands. If Brady, Belichick and Kraft want to support their friend without commenting on his policies, that’s their prerogative. If they agree with his hard right-wing politics, that’s OK, too.

But it’s cowardly for them to only insert themselves into the conversation at their convenience. It’s a stark difference from the way Martellus Bennett is carrying himself. Around the Patriots, his candor is a breath of fresh air.

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, Bennett penned a letter of advice to his two-year-old daughter. In it, he encouraged her to stand up to adversity and bring positive change to the world. Though it was filled with platitudes, the action was overtly political. It was a pep talk to minorities everywhere who feel their freedom may be threatened in Trump’s America, either in the form of airport detainments or a seemingly inevitable crackdown on voting rights.

In the world of popular culture, coming out against Trump is hardly courageous. The SAG Film Awards, much like the Golden Globes, resembled an anti-Trump rally. Bennett isn’t likely to face a lot of media blowback for disavowing the most disliked president ever.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t risky for him to express his thoughts. Unlike the NBA, where countless players and coaches have shared their viewpoints on Trump, the NFL seems to discourage political discourse. Patriots transcripts from media night, for example, don’t include any mentions of Trump, even though Brady was asked about him multiple times. In even addressing politics, Bennett is bucking league protocol. It’s unlikely to hurt his free agent market this spring, but it certainly doesn’t help.

On Monday morning, just hours before the Patriots’ send-off rally, Bennett tweeted the word “inclusiveness.” One minute later, in an apparent response to President Trump’s travel ban, he expanded his message.

“America was built on inclusiveness not exclusiveness,” he wrote.

At Opening Night, while Brady was blabbering on about staying positive, Bennett made his feelings on Trump clear when he was asked whether he would visit the White House if the Patriots were to win the Super Bowl.

“I don’t know. I’ve got to win a Super Bowl, but most likely no,” he said.

When asked why he wouldn’t go, Bennett said it’s because he doesn’t “support the guy that’s in the house.”

Making a quip to reporters doesn’t put Bennett in the same category as NBA coaches Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy, who have arguably been more poignant in their rebukes of Trump than most Democratic lawmakers. But he’s willing to put himself in the conversation. Given the culture of secrecy around the Patriots, that’s no small feat.

When the Patriots traded for Bennett last spring, there were questions about whether he would temper his tongue. Then, at the start of training camp, he referred to the NFL as “N****** for lease” in an interview with ESPN Magazine. All doubt was put to rest opening night, when he raised his fist during the national anthem alongside Devin McCourty in an attempt to spark discussion about social change.

Bennett’s statements –– from coming out in favor of racial justice to condemning a ban on Syrian refugees and citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries –– aren’t inherently political. But in today’s climate, where even the accuracy of facts is a partisan issue, speaking up for decency is important.

Come Sunday, there’s little doubt Bennett will be ready to play. He’s been playing with a cracked bone in his ankle and caught a career-high seven touchdowns this season. Bennett shows it’s possible to perform on the field, and engage in important discussions off it.

At least one athlete in Boston isn’t pleading ignorance.

Read More: Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots,

NFL omits mentions of Donald Trump and Roger Goodell from official Patriots transcripts

01.31.17 at 4:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady was asked a series of questions about President Donald Trump and Roger Goodell at NFL opening night Monday. But the official league transcript says otherwise.

According to the New York Times, the NFL largely omitted the words “Trump” and “Goodell” from the transcript. “Trump” isn’t written at all, even though Brady was asked three questions about him. Brady received four questions about Goodell, but his name is only written once. Bill Belichick was asked about his friendship with the divisive president as well.

It’s apparent the NFL made an effort to sanitize the Patriots’ portion of media night. ESPN and NFL Network didn’t show any of the Trump questions to Brady or Belichick, instead opting to air their own bits with Patriots players. At one point, NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest was counting how many times Belichick smiled during his Q&A.

It’s not unusual for the NFL to leave questions out of transcripts. In a statement provided to the NYT, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said the transcripts aren’t intended to be verbatim accounts of every exchange. They’re supposed to serve as a summary.

“There’s no editing of these quotes by the person who is transcribing nor by the league office,” he said.

Two years ago, the NFL took out Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s answers to questions about Robert Kraft, Goodell and the league’s handling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence case. At the time, Sherman was engaged in a public spat with Kraft, criticizing him for being too close to Goodell. As a result of their friendship, Sherman insinuated the investigation would be biased in favor of the Patriots.

Sherman, of course, was completely wrong. The NFL levied draconian penalties on the Patriots, including suspending Brady for four games. That’s why Brady was asked about possibly receiving the Lombardi Trophy from Goodell Sunday night.

Despite Brady’s four-game ban, perhaps the biggest Patriots-related storyline entering the Super Bowl is the team’s affiliation with Trump. Brady, Belichick and Kraft are all personal friends with the President, and have spoken about him at various lengths this season. But in an apparent effort to steer away from controversy, the NFL decided to expunge questions about Trump from the official record.

In the era of social media, however, the public already knows those topics were broached. The NFL’s attempt to clean things up has only created more of a mess.

Read More: Donald Trump, Roger Goodell, Tom Brady,

Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy responds to NFL’s credentials ban

01.31.17 at 12:36 pm ET
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At the height of the Deflategate saga, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy and four of his underlings were arrested for staging a sit-in at NFL headquarters. Nearly two years later, the league still seems to hold a grudge.

According to Pro Football Talk, Barstool’s credentials for Super Bowl week have been pulled. Comedy Central, which airs the company’s daily rundown show, also isn’t allowed on radio row.

“It didn’t come as a surprise. They banned us last year as well,” Portnoy told WEEI.com via email.

Despite the ruling, Barstool Sports is still hosting its television show from Houston this week. PFTCommentator, one of the website’s most well-known personalities, also found his way into Minute Maid Park for Super Bowl opening night. He asked Bill Belichick a question about Danny Woodhead.

When asked if Barstool is planning to retaliate against the NFL, Portnoy said he can’t divulge any secrets.

“I can’t tell you how we’re planning on fighting it. That would be like Bill Belichick giving his playbook to the Falcons,” he said.

Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo on Kirk & Callahan: ‘America is sick of the Patriots’

01.31.17 at 12:16 pm ET
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A recent poll shows the majority of Americans are rooting for the Patriots to lose in the Super Bowl. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo says that’s because most sports fans are tired of seeing the Patriots win.

In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Tuesday from radio row, Russo said he understands why people want to see the Falcons prevail in Super Bowl LI.

“I do think America is sick of the Patriots. They’re polarizing,” he said. “They will root for Atlanta and they will hope that Matt Ryan and [Dan] Quinn don’t get intimated by the big stage.”

As a host on SiriusXM, Russo hears from sports fans all over the country. Though Brady’s relationship with Trump and his role in Deflategate are often discussed in media circles, he said Brady’s success is still the No. 1 reason why people dislike him.

“‘Hate’ is a little strong,” he said. “They’re tired of him. He’s won too much. Every year it’s the same old thing. I got so tired of watching them beat Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game. I think America just wants to see something a little different. And the Patriots never give you anything. [Bill] Belichick isn’t the warm and fuzzy guy. You can understand why the American sports fan who doesn’t have any chips in the middle of the game here, they’re not going to sit there and root for the Patriots. Because they’ve seen them win too much, the reaction is to root against them.”

Speaking of Deflategate, Russo now concedes the punishment was probably too severe. But he still thinks Brady knew the footballs were under-inflated.

“If you guys don’t think he knew those footballs were at the end of the limit, you’re crazy,” he said.

Russo also said he’s tired of hearing Tom Brady Sr. opine on the topic.

“Your son is a player who’s from the association,” he said. “If he’s so wrapped up on [Roger] Goodell’s powers, why’d they’d sign them over in the collective bargaining agreement year after year after year? Now I gotta listen to Brady’s old man tell me what a joke this is, that he got a four-game suspension? Blame your own union, you idiot, because your union is the one who signed off all of these arbitrational powers to the commissioner. So the judges ruled correctly that he didn’t break CBA protocol. That’s the bottom line.

“Nobody wants to hear from Tom Brady Sr. outside of the Boston Patriots nutcase. Be quiet. Your kid is in the Super Bowl. He’s an all-time great. Everyone loves watching him play. Leave it alone! Leave it alone! He’s the father, what’s he going to say? Leave it alone! Leave it alone!”

Jason Whitlock on Kirk & Callahan: Being a journalist at ESPN ‘put me on the outs’

01.31.17 at 12:01 pm ET
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Few sports media personalities are more well-versed on the issues of race and politics than Fox Sports 1’s Jason Whitlock. He opined on both of those topics, including whether his unconventional views put him at odds with ESPN management, in an interview with Kirk & Callahan Tuesday

At Super Bowl opening night, Tom Brady was inundated with questions about his friendship with Donald Trump. Though Whitlock said he doesn’t align with Trump politically, he doesn’t think Brady is obligated to explain his relationship with the President.

“Let’s say if it goes beyond friendship. Let’s say Brady’s political views are in line with Trump’s. I don’t think he should have to apologize for that, either,” he said. “I’m from middle America. I grew up in Indianapolis, I made my bones as a journalist in Kansas City. In middle America, it’s just, if you really understand middle America, Trump’s just not that polarizing. If you understand how Obama got into office: promising dramatic change, promising to upset the establishment. He didn’t deliver on that, he did not upset the establishment. So many people who voted for Barack Obama, who wanted the establishment upset said, “OK, Barack wouldn’t do it. Let’s go with a non-politican. Let’s go with a billionaire who will upset the establishment.”

On the topic of race, Whitlock said he doesn’t share the viewpoint that Boston is more bigoted than other cities in the country.

“What about Baltimore? I’m not trying to be adversarial or contrarian. But go look at the murder rate,” he said. “It’s a black-controlled city. They have some issues with the African-American population in Baltimore in a city that’s run by African-Americans. So I think that poverty and dealing with people is very complicated and a lot of people of all colors make mistakes. So I think it’s a weak way of evaluating any city, just, “Oh, they’re racist so you can just eliminate that city. The same issues that black people may face in Boston, they face in Baltimore.”

Whitlock, who prides himself on bucking conventional wisdom, said his viewpoint didn’t match up with ESPN’s mission. After a short-lived return, he left ESPN to join FS1 in October 2015.

“I don’t think I was ever in the middle. My history as a journalist is I’m always going to play it down the middle, I’m always going to be objective,” he said. “I’m always going to be a journalist –– or try to be a journalist in a journalistic job. That put me on the outs –– they have a political point of view. They have a group within ESPN, I think it’s called “Pulse,” it’s very politically active. It’s a group of special-interests groups within ESPN employees that go around [and] police thought to some degree. I don’t like to have my thoughts policed. I like to say what I think.”

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Tom Brady’s bond with his father is deeply humanizing

01.31.17 at 10:37 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts to a question about his father during Super Bowl LI media day. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts to a question about his father during Super Bowl LI media day. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

On the whole, Tom Brady is no longer a relatable person. He’s married to a supermodel and eats things like quinoa with wilted greens. But his bond with his father transcends fame. It’s the most humanizing thing about him.

At Super Bowl opening night, Brady spent a lot of his time deflecting questions about his friendship with President Donald Trump. During one exchange, he claimed to be ignorant of everything going on in the world –– outside of the Patriots’ upcoming Super Bowl matchup with the Falcons.

“What’s going on in the world? I haven’t paid much attention. I’m just a positive person,” he said.

While it’s understandable if Brady wants to turn the topic away from Trump, his response there isn’t believable. Moments like those make it seem as if he’s a cyborg, programmed to turn away questions with a friendly, yet distant smile.

Then a young boy asked Brady who his hero is. The four-time Super Bowl champion struggled to hold back tears, appearing to morph back into that sixth-round draft pick from San Mateo, Calif.

“Who’s my hero? That’s a great question,” Brady said. “Well, I think my dad is my hero because he’s someone that I look up to every day.”

As the tears welled up in his eyes, Brady repeated himself.

“My dad.”

Tom Brady Sr. made headlines last week, when he lambasted Roger Goodell in a TV interview over his handling of the Deflategate scandal.

“When it happens to your son, it’s a whole different context,” he said. “Or your daughter or any one of your kids. And I think any parent kind of understands that. They’d rather take the slings and arrows in the heart than have their kids take it. For what the league did to [Tom] and what Roger Goodell constantly lied about is beyond reprehensible, as far as I’m concerned.”

Though Brady never publicly admonished Roger Goodell or the NFL during the Deflategate saga, his father went on the offensive. In 2015, he even called into a Bay Area radio show to defend his son’s honor.

On Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady Jr. joked he was banning Brady Sr. from talking to the media. But Brady’s emotional tribute to his father at media night shows how much his dad’s defense means to him. As much as he tries to downplay Deflategate, it must still eat at him. It would eat at anybody.

If Brady won’t admit it himself, his father will speak for him.

Read More: Tom Brady,

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Dan Le Batard criticizes ESPN colleague Sage Steele for airport Instagram post; LeBron James goes on Charles Barkley rant, calls him a ‘hater’

01.31.17 at 10:04 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Tuesday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Boston at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m. (NBATV)
NBA: Charlotte at Portland, 10 p.m. (NBATV)
College basketball: Creighton at Butler, 7 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: George Washington at URI, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Iowa at Rutgers, 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Maryland at Ohio State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Pittsburgh at North Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Wake Forest at Boston College, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Temple at Tulane, 8 p.m. (ESPNews)
College basketball: Dayton at Fordham, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Georgetown at DePaul, 9 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Georgia at Kentucky, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: West Virginia at Iowa State, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Wisconsin at Illinois, 9 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Wyoming at San Diego State, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— ESPN’s Dan Le Batard went after his colleague Sage Steele on Tuesday after Steele complained on Instagram after protests against Donald Trump’s immigration ban delayed her travel to Houston for the Super Bowl.

“The genie is out of the bottle on this because we all have our own Twitter accounts and all have our own social media,” Le Batard said on his show. “This is what ESPN is trying to prevent because once one person does it, it opens the floodgates for the rest of us because, of course, I, as the son of exiles, look at this and I’m like what the hell are you talking about [that] your travel plans were affected? What are you talking about? The height of privilege. But you can’t give this a voice and then muzzle the rest of us. You can’t give Sage Steele this voice and muzzle the son of exiles.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bart Hubbuch confirms New York Post fired him for tweet comparing Donald Trump to Pearl Harbor, 9/11

01.31.17 at 12:47 am ET
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Former New York Post NFL writer Bart Hubbuch announced Monday night he was fired for his tweet on Jan. 20 comparing Donald Trump’s inauguration to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. That tweet, which Hubbuch even pinned to his profile, has since been deleted, along with the tweet he sent out apologizing for the initial tweet. 

When Hubbuch changed his Twitter bio from “NFL writer/columnist for the New York Post” to “Veteran sportswriter” on Saturday, speculation grew that he had been fired.

WEEI’s own Kirk Minihane confirmed this on Saturday:  

Tom Brady shows his game face in latest Instagram post

01.30.17 at 6:51 pm ET
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Houston Bound #Letsgooooo

A photo posted by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Tom Brady showed he’s ready to go in this picture from the Patriots’ Super Bowl send-off rally on Monday at Gillette as the team departed for Houston.

If I’m a Falcon, I’m scared.

But Brady isn’t the only one here showing extreme emotion. Look at Belichick. That’s a smile. Tone it down a little, Bill.

 

Watch Rob Gronkowski’s Super Bowl ad for Tide

01.30.17 at 6:03 pm ET
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Thanks to a herniated disc, Rob Gronkowski will be inactive when the Patriots take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. But he’ll still be featured during the telecast.

Gronkowski stars alongside actor Jeffrey Tambor in an ad for the stain remover, Tide. The commercial, which runs 37 seconds, features Gronk as an inept dry-cleaner who cuts the sleeves off Tambor’s shirt to remove a stain rather than use laundry detergent. It’s … moderately amusing.

According to Variety, Fox is charging companies between $5 million and $5.5 million for a 30-second spot in this year’s Super Bowl. Last year, the average 30-second ad was sold for $5 million.

NFL ratings may have decreased this season, but the prices for Super Bowl commercials only continue to increase. For Tide’s sake, hopefully Gronk can help out their bottom line more than he helped the Patriots this season.

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