Houston – The worlds of politics and sports continued to intersect during Monday’s media night at the Super Bowl, but the biggest names in the room did their best to deflect questions about the country’s increasing divide in the first weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s term.
Tom Brady, who has long supported Trump, declined to characterize their relationship. When asked why, the New England Patriots quarterback shifted focus to Sunday’s game.
"I just want to focus on the positive aspects of this game, my teammates and the reason why we are here," Brady said. "It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. I just want to focus on the positive nature of two great teams competing at this level."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has also publicly supported Trump, suggested the venue was an inappropriate one for political discussion.
“I’m going to tell you, there’s appropriate times to talk about that,” Kraft said. “I told (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank this. He called me and said give me some advice. I said, ‘Don’t let anyone ruin these two weeks.’ Because there’ll be a lot of things coming on and pressure, and anyone who starts piercing the bubble of happiness, get ’em out of your life. So these two weeks, we’re going to just focus on how lucky we are to be here and do whatever we can to try to help our team win the game.”
Even Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, a native of Sierra Leone and one of a handful of Muslim players in the league, declined to offer his thoughts on Trump’s executive order that banned citizens from seven countries from entering the United States the next 90 days.
“My name is Mohamed and a lot of people know I am Muslim, but I am here because of my football talents, not because I am Muslim,” Sanu said. “And I am here to talk about football so if you are going to continue to ask me about my religious beliefs, then I am going to tell you the same thing. I am here to talk about football. I respect all of you guys. I have tremendous love for you guys, but I am here to talk about football and playing against the Patriots.”
Only one player didn’t shy away from commenting on politics, New England’s outspoken tight end Martellus Bennett. He believes most players don’t comment on social and political issues because they’re afraid of the backlash.
“A lot of guys just aren’t educated enough to do it, educated enough on the subject,” Bennett said. “It varies, but I think the biggest thing is stepping on that plank. They feel like they’re going to get crucified if they do speak up on different matters.”
Although he said he wanted to focus on winning the game first, Bennett imagines he would probably decline a trip to the White House if the Patriots beat the Falcons on Sunday.
“I don’t support the guy that’s in the House,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s decision wouldn’t be unusual. Plenty of athletes have skipped trips to White House in the past, including Brady, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.