UPDATE: This morning, 36 hours after Trump’s attack, Kraft finally put out a statement saying, “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”
President Trump, who defended murderous white supremacists after the Charlottesville attacks, made vulgar attacks Friday night against black athletes who silently protest racist violence. Dozens of prominent athletes including LeBron James and the Patriots’ Devin McCourty responded by publicly dunking on Trump. But as ESPN’s Mike Reiss points out, while commissioner Roger Goodell and at least 11 other owners have stood with free speech, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been conspiciously silent:
By late Saturday night, NFL owners/CEOs John Mara/Steve Tisch (Giants), Stephen Ross (Dolphins), Jed York (49ers), Mark Murphy (Packers), Arthur Blank (Falcons), Amy Adams-Strunk (Titans), Dean Spanos (Chargers), Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles), Terry Pegula (Bills), Jim Irsay (Colts) and Paul Allen (Seahawks) had issued statements in response to President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL player protests. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who often takes pride in having a leadership role in the NFL community, has stayed on the sidelines to this point.
It’s something Patriots-loving progressive Massachusetts doesn’t like to talk about, but … the Patriots love our white supremacist president. Kraft, Belichick, Brady – all have publicly expressed support for Trump (Kraft donated $1 million to Trump’s shady inaugural slush fund). Of course I’m not saying they’re white supremacists or specifically support Trump’s white supremacy, but all we can go by is what they’ve publicly said and done, which is support Trump and been silent as he viciously attacks black athletes (and immigrants, and I could go on all day).
There’s another aspect of this that’s been little-discussed in New England. In 2016, the Patriots acquired tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive end Chris Long, who both went on to have strong seasons. Bennett and McCourty raised fists during the national anthem to show support for Black Lives Matter, and Long was one of the few white athletes to publicly express solidarity with the protests. When the Patriots visited the White House after the Super Bowl, Bennett and Long were among a group of Patriots to publicly skip the trip.
When Bennett and Long hit free agency in 2017, the Patriots let both leave.
Now, the Patriots are known for preferring to let veterans leave a year too early than hanging onto them a year too long. But both Bennett and Long were very productive, each signed extremely modest contracts elsewhere, and both were positions of need (the Patriots traded for a tight end and are now precariously thin at defensive end). It’s not some huge scandal, but in the context of the Patriots’ public love for Trump, it raises an eyebrow.
With the first baseball players joining Black Lives Matter protests, all eyes will be on sports fields today. Will any Patriots join McCourty in what’s now a protest not just against racist violence but against our racist president, and if so will they be risking their next contract? What about the Red Sox – will any take a knee?