Military Families Are Outraged By Tom Brady’s Comments Comparing the NFL to Deployment
Brady’s comments are sparking public anger, while others are coming to his defense.
This post was updated on Oct. 21 to include Tom Brady’s apology in response to the backlash.
NFL superstar Tom Brady is making headlines again. But, this time, it’s not for his alleged impending divorce from Gisele Bundchen or his performance on the field. In a recent podcast, the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likened his time in the NFL to military deployment.
“I almost look at football season like you’re going away on deployment in the military, and it’s like, ‘Man, here I go again,’” Brady said during an interview with the ‘Let’s Go’ podcast. The comments have sparked outrage from active military members, veterans, and their spouses — with military publication Task & Purpose calling the comments “nonsensical” and “tone-deaf.”
“My husband left for Iraq 10 days after our son was born, and came home 2 weeks before his first birthday. Brady needs to take a seat,” says 42-year-old Bekka Putnam, whose husband Bill was in the Army for 22 years.
“Tom Brady thinks playing football is like going on military deployment,” tweeted @LadyJaxPersists. “We both wear a uniform, and our marriages/relationships can be strained, but the similarities end there. He plays a game to entertain people. We risk our lives to defend this country.”
A military deployment typically warrants between three to 15 months away from home, families and ordinary creature comforts, explains The Military Times, while Brady’s $30-million-dollar-a-year job entails about half of the year away from his family.
Some who spoke to HelloGiggles say Brady’s comments reek of privilege. “As a veteran, I’m tired of people, especially celebrities, comparing their lives to that of service members,” says Don Bishop, a 40-year-old Navy vet in Chesapeake, Virginia.
“Brady makes millions of dollars a month to study, practice and play a game. Are there sacrifices? Yes. But, he gets to go home to his wife and kids and has 4-6 months off a year to do what he wants. We don’t.”
Others expressed similar sentiments.
“When he’s watching his teammates get blown up in front of his face, or when he’s scared for his life every time he steps on the field, or when his multi-million-dollar salary gets cut down close to minimum wage, then we can talk about comparisons,” says Gina Molinaro Blackmon, a 44-year-old military spouse in South Carolina whose husband Eric served in the Marines for 10 years.
The 45-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champ is one of the highest-paid professional football players of all time and undeniably an American icon. Naturally, not everyone feels the same way.
“People are so upset because it’s Tom Brady. He’s a hall-of-fame quarterback with Super Bowl rings, handsome looks, and a hot model wife,” explains Christopher Wright, a 58-year-old Desert Storm vet. “People want to see him lose and ridicule everything he does or say.”
While time on the road for NFL players may be rough, some military members say deployments aren’t always too terrible either. “Military deployments aren’t always to a war zone,” laments Pete Lesto, an Army vet who served from 2011-2015. “Being in the NFL limits contact with family and entails extended periods away from him. It has had an adverse effect on his marriage. These are not the easiest things to overcome.”
In speaking with my own husband, Patrick Sena, an avid football fan who spent three years in active duty as a firefighter in the Air Force, he says: “The guy has been classy his whole career. He’s 45 years old playing at a high level, he’s going through a tough time personally, and all he’s saying is that he’s been away from his family. To a football player, the field is their battlefield. I wouldn’t take his comments too seriously.”
PJ Merante, a 37-year-old Air Force veteran in upstate New York who did tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, agrees. “The grind of the football season and the focus and dedication it requires absorbs all the player’s time. This is time away from family, friends and pets. Comparing it to the sacrifice of soldiers and the similarities in the training and preparation is a good comparison in my opinion,” he adds.
Brady had previously announced his departure from professional football in February to “spend more time with his family,” before suddenly coming out of retirement just 6 weeks later to join the Buccs. He and Bundchen share two kids, Benjamin (12), and Vivian (9), as well as his eldest son Jack (15), with ex Bridget Moynihan.
In October, rumors began to swirl that Brady and Bundchen were headed for divorce. Sources have said that Brady’s return to the NFL is a major catalyst for the couple’s split.
Meanwhile, at last week’s Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game, Brady was seen berating teammates on the sideline for their lackluster performance (Brady later said he was just “motivating” them). One could speculate that after years of his professional life taking a toll on his personal life, the opposite is now happening.
But many people feel that still doesn’t warrant a comparison to those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
Veterans, especially those who have served during wartime, experience high rates of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and a high rate of suicide. Veterans are at 57% higher risk of suicide than those who haven’t served, reports StopSoldierSuicide.org.
About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year, according to the National Center for PTSD.
Conversely, NFL athletes suffer frequent traumatic brain injuries and other often debilitating physical injuries, which also have lasting effects. Plus, time away from family can certainly put a strain on a marriage.
Kristis Cartozian, a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Chapel Hill, NC, has extensive experience with patients suffering from military and combat-related PTSD. “While football players certainly endure time away from their families, the financial stress and PTSD from combat exposure are things Tom Brady doesn’t have to deal with,” says Cartozian. “Deployed military members endure many stressors that go beyond just time away from their families.”
While both NFL players and military members have adverse mental, physical, and emotional consequences, Brady admits that comparing the two, may not have been the best choice of words.
In a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 20, he took the opportunity to address the controversy.
“Earlier this week, I made a statement about playing football and the military and it was a very poor choice of words,” stated the QB. “And I just want to express that to any sentiments out there, that people may have taken it in a certain way, so I apologize.”
“I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for everyone who served and, in the end, we play a game and the military is defending our country is two very different things and I shouldn’t have made the comparison.”
If you or someone you know might be suffering from PTSD or having suicidal thoughts, contact the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online. Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message by dialing 741741.