Buckley: Brady's comments on NFL scandals not well played

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Tom Brady went on the radio Monday morning and made a comment about trying to “stay in my lane,” when he was asked about the growing personal conduct scandals that are turning the National Football League into a national embarrassment.

Brady doesn’t want to talk about Adrian Peterson. He doesn’t want to talk about Ray Rice. He doesn’t want to talk about Greg Hardy. But by not weighing in with a whole lot of fire and brimstone, Brady gets unfairly tossed into Enabling Camp along with Charles Barkley and those sensitive fans who parade around in Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice jerseys.

And so before I get to my criticism of Brady ­— and I promise you, it’s coming — let’s point out some of the stuff he did say on WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” program that seems to have wound up on the cutting-room floor.

He did say he has “... a lot of personal feelings toward all those things,” and by “those things” I assume he means the things we gleaned from the elevator video and the horrific photographs of Peterson’s 4-year-old son. He also said, “I try to live and make the best decisions possible on and off the field and represent my organization and represent my family as best I can.”

That’s a far cry from defending a brand of parental guidance that’s cruelly out of touch with a modern, civilized society.

Brady did not follow the lead of his own coach, Bill Belichick, who last Sunday curiously said, “I’ve had a lot of personal respect for Adrian and Ray, and the whole situation is really unfortunate for the events of what happened, but we all know that, so it’s an unfortunate situation.”

It’s not Brady’s actions, but his inactions, that are at issue here. For when Brady told WEEI listeners, “There’s nothing I can do to make a difference,” he’s forgetting, or choosing to forget, the enormous bully pulpit that’s available to professional athletes.

When they speak, we listen. And the bigger they are — in terms of fame, talent, personality — the more we listen. Always.

Consider the role NBA megastar LeBron James played in the ouster of Clippers owner Donald Sterling. “It’s unacceptable,” LeBron said of Sterling’s recorded racist comments. “It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Hispanic, whatever, all across the races. It’s unacceptable. And as a commissioner of our league, you have to make a stand and you have to be very aggressive with it.”

Throughout the history of sports, professional athletes have been using their status to bring about change. Ted Williams, on being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966, spoke these words: “I hope that one day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given the chance.”

Just the other day, when Eli Manning was asked about the Peterson case, the Giants quarterback said, “You hate to see a child that is being hurt. You don’t like seeing those things or hearing about them. Just try to go home and hug your own children. It makes you want to hopefully not put them in harm’s way.”

There’s nothing Tom Brady can do to make a difference? He does it all the time, as evidenced by his involvement in the Best Buddies program and other charitable endeavors.

At a time when the people who should be acting are stepped back behind the curtain — and, really, has anyone seen NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lately? — a few well-chosen words by the league’s top players can help bring about change.

They talk, we listen.

That’s the power athletes have, if they choose to exercise it.