Commentary by Jacqueline Bennett


Quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are set to take the field at Gillette Stadium tonight in Foxborough, Massachusetts for the first regular season game – as it should be. Brady will be there in uniform suited up to play when the banner is raised for the Patriots’ last season Super Bowl victory.


After the Super Bowl honors, certainly a win would be nice. Regardless of the score at the end of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers however, tonight is a triumph for Brady who stuck to his principles. The Hall of Fame bound QB refused to be bullied into accepting an unjust suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and refused to compromise his Constitutional personal rights as a citizen.


The four game suspension was recently nullified in court. It had been wrongfully imposed without evidence of alleged involvement by Brady in reducing the amount of air in the footballs to gain an edge in a playoff game and without due notice of action/consequence. It was imposed in the face of a demand that he turn over his cell phone. And it was imposed after other egregious behavior by NFL players – such as domestic abuse and child beating – was initially treated with a virtual slap on the hand.


An NFL QB may seem like an unlikely person to carry the Constitutional gauntlet, yet how appreciative we should all be that there are folks out there willing to go through the stress and public scrutiny that comes with standing up for yourself. Although Brady has received plenty of support from Patriots fans, there are those who have vilified him – there are those who simply resent Brady and the Patriots’ multiple Super Bowl victories. I am reminded of an interview I conducted with the former head of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union when I was working on a story for the New York Times about First Amendment rights. At the time the person at the center of the matter was not a particularly sympathetic figure and the CCLU head said to me, “If I can defend this right for the least likable person, I have defended it for all of us.”


Even now Goodell has not dropped the issue. Rather, the judge’s ruling is being appealed.


I’m sure it was not an easy summer for Brady but I admire his fortitude in standing his ground – for each time the line is moved back for the rights of one person, it is moved back for all of us. Tom – I applaud your perseverance. Go Pats!


New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers NBC 8:30 p.m.