Tom Brady: Unlikely Working Class Hero
Did you hear the one about Tom Brady and the union? Well, if you were at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast, you heard it over and over and over. The Greatest Quarterback of All Time, fresh off a successful court battle against the NFL, was portrayed as a champion of the working man by nearly every speaker to grace the stage at the Park Plaza Hotel on Monday. It was odd to hear the name of a multimillionaire who is married to a Brazilian supermodel and a fan of Donald Trump’s constantly held up as a working class hero, but the crowd ate it up at every turn.
“Boy, did that union card come in handy, Tom Brady!” proclaimed Greater Boston Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Rich Rogers.
Attorney General Maura Healey, seated on the main stage throughout the morning, dropped a similar joke when she noted, again, that Brady is a card-carrying union member.
Starting to sense a theme here?
“Every Patriots fan understands the importance of unions. It’s because of the union that Tom Brady had the right to challenge the unfair punishment handed down,” said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a New England Patriots season ticket holder, joked that Brady was “right up there” with other New England champions of labor like firefighters honcho Ed Kelly.
Senator Ed Markey delivered the best one liner of the night with a joke about something that never gets old: balls.
“Tom Brady decided to fight. Now, no one will question the balls of a union member again,” said Markey.
His remarks brought the house down.
While many of the speakers fired off shots at Trump and other Republicans, nobody seemed to acknowledge Brady’s ties to the Make America Great Again demagogue. Last week, a hat with Trump’s campaign slogan was found in Brady’s locker room. On Monday, Brady, card-carrying union man, acknowledged that the hat was indeed his and said he thinks Trump has done “amazing” things.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was the lone elected official to not reference Brady’s balls while addressing the throngs of local labor leaders and activists, sticking to a more meat-and-potatoes speech about income inequality.
President Barack Obama, ever the sports fan, dialed in on Brady as union guy talk in his speech, noting immediately that Brady “is free” and ready to play ball because, of course, he’s in the union.
“Even Brady is happy he’s got a union. They had his back. So you know if Brady needs a union, we definitely need unions. Because the fact of the matter is, even kids understand this: You’re stronger when you stand together,” said President Barack Obama.
To their credit and bad jokes, they have a point. To put this in Goodellspeak, it’s more probable than not that Brady would have had a more difficult time in his fight with the NFL without a union. Deflategate (or, as some call it, #ballghazi) was more about the state of NFL labor relations than the dignity and legacy of the Greatest Quarterback of All Time.
Judge Richard Berman left Brady’s innocence or guilt on the matter of ball pressure out of his ruling. The decision handed down in a New York courtroom last week though was not about Brady’s actions, at its core, it was a rebuke of the NFL’s disciplinary and contractual policies.
If this was a fight purely about Brady’s innocence and not the NFL stepping all over its collective bargaining contract with the NFL Player’s Association, the situation could have turned out quite differently.
So, yeah, in a weird way, Brady the multimillionaire quarterback who has endorsement deals with Movado and Uggs, has become a poster boy for organized labor.