Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass column

For the past 17 years, I have been a huge fan of NFL Quarterback, Peyton Manning. I cheered for him when he was an Indianapolis Colt, kept my finger on the pulse of his neck surgeries and recoveries in 2011 and of course, watched him as he transformed into a Denver Bronco in 2012. My husband, on the other hand, cheers for two NFL quarterbacks; Tony Romo is the first and has priority over any other simply because he plays for the Dallas Cowboys (my husband’s favourite team) and Tom Brady is the second because, according to my husband, “he’s a winner!”

When the NFL’s regular season schedule was released in 2011, we bought tickets to watch what was supposed to be one of the greatest quarterback match-ups ever, having Tom Brady and the New England Patriots playing host to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. I was so excited that I was finally going to get to see my favourite quarterback live and in action! The excitement didn’t last for long though because the news of his first surgery came to light shortly after we had bought the tickets. His status as an active player that season had become uncertain. However, with hope in hand, I went to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts that December just to see if my hero would make it out on the field to pass enough footballs to win the game and let the rest of the world know how great I already knew he was! Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and sadly, I had to watch the Patriots essentially have practice that day, as they beat my Colts, 31-24.

What made the day worse for me was all the hype surrounding Tom Brady. Granted, I never had a reason to dislike the man other than the fact that he’s just not Peyton Manning, but now, ever since news surrounding “Deflategate” has surfaced, I’ve had to step back and re-evaluate my thoughts and opinions in relation to, not only Tom Brady, but to the NFL and ultimately, where I am left in relation to supporting it.

Allegations that footballs were purposely deflated before last year’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts yielded a 243-page investigative report which concluded that Tom Brady was likely the initiator of such acts, while in cahoots with two locker room attendants. As a result, Brady has been suspended without pay for four games while the club has been fined $1 million and has forfeited its first and fourth round picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Although Brady has since appealed his suspension, as a lawyer, it is difficult to get the terms, “misrepresentation” or even “fraud” out of my head.

The only football I’ve ever played was house league flag football in school and I can’t recall what advantage, if any, having a football that was over or under-inflated ever gave a player. However, if it provides an unfair advantage to either side, especially in different climates and/or altitudes, then doesn’t that constitute “cheating” at the hands of the knowing party? It has also been reported that Brady was uncooperative with respect to handing over his cell phone to officials conducting the investigation. To Brady, I say this, if deflating footballs does not give you an unfair advantage then why the reluctance in handing over your cell phone that could, at a minimum, show that you’ve got nothing to hide? Although I may not have all of the facts at hand, I have played enough competitive sports in my life to know that the integrity of the sport is of the utmost importance. If you don’t possess the character to uphold the integrity to play fair and by the rules, then perhaps you just shouldn’t play. Full stop. Haven’t stories of other cheaters in sport like Ben Johnson, Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez been enough?

The primary reason as to why this news has really “irked” me is because my husband and I have a young son; one who, given the amount of sports we watch in our household, will likely select some professional athletes as role models as he grows up. With rulings that are inconsistent among the various sports out there, what are we, as a society, teaching our children? What behaviours are we telling them are acceptable and which ones are not? As old as I am, I believe the way I feel about Peyton Manning is equivalent to the way a kid would view his/her role model. Despite the fact that he is male, he competes with class, seems to have respect for everyone around him and is loyal to his priorities which are said to be “…faith, family, friends and football.” Although these are the attributes I will tell my son to keep an eye out for, he will likely end up choosing the team who sports the flashiest colours or who has the coolest mascot! Oh well, one battle at a time! Until then, though, I will continue to watch as “Deflategate” unfolds and by its conclusion, I should have a better understanding of what the NFL will mean for me as a fan in the future. Right now, only one thing is certain for me; Tom Brady does not appear like a “winner” at all.

Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass is a member of the Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. You can reach Stephanie at Sunchild Law, her email address is: stephanie@sunchildlaw.com

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One Response

  1. Mike

    It seems to me that multiple lessons can be taken by this incident. Certainly it’s important to take all presented opportunities to reinforce the importance of fair play. Fair play, however, can also be applied to the accusation of Mr. Brady. Shouldn’t we teach our children about the importance of not judging someone prematurely? How about reaching conclusions based on all the facts rather than just the ones that support your opinion? How about looking for and identifying bias before said conclusions are reached? Finally, shouldn’t we teach our children about the fairness inherent in having an impartial judge? The damage done to Mr. Brady due to the unbalanced press coverage and those violating the tenets of basic fairness is incalculable. Recommend following these fairness practices and leading by example.

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