USA Today took comments made by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady out of context in an attempt to make it seem as though he was criticizing teammates who have said they would not join the team for its White House visit.
The paper reported on Tuesday morning that Brady said he thinks his teammates should “put politics aside” when it comes to making a decision on visiting the White House. Six of his teammates have announced that they will not be attending the ceremony with President Donald Trump.
On social media, USA Today wrote that “Brady says his teammates should put ‘politics aside’ when it comes to visiting the White House.”
Screenshot of USA Today’s Twitter account
The linked report was almost immediately called out by Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk, which posted the interview with Brady that USA Today seized on. He provided the full context of Brady’s comment. Brady actually said that he doesn’t care whether his teammates attend because it is “their own choice.” Brady then pointed out that when he was unable to attend the White House after his last Super Bowl, it “was never a political thing.”
Here is the full quote:
“Everybody has their own choice. There’s certain years, like a couple years ago, I wanted to go and didn’t get the opportunity based on the schedule—we didn’t get told until I think like 10 days before we were going, and at that point I had something I’d been planning for months and couldn’t get there. It really is a great experience. Putting politics aside, it never was a political thing. At least, it never was to me. It meant you won a championship and you got to experience something cool with your team, with your teammates. Everyone has their own choice. It’s an offseason. These days are valuable for everybody. You only get so much time with your family and friends, and if people don’t want to go they don’t want to go and that’s their choice.”
USA Today’s report on Brady has now been corrected to clarify that Brady did not say that his teammates should “put politics aside.”
“An earlier version of this story said Tom Brady thought his teammates should put politics aside when deciding about the visit,” it now says.
Florio points out in his post that NFL players such as the Panthers’ Greg Olsen have chosen not to talk about politics because of a fear that comments could be “be misinterpreted and then have your thoughts misconstrued for a catchy headline.”
“The end result is a classic case of misconstruing thoughts for a catchy headline, and it’s a prime example of why it’s so hard to persuade athletes to talk about politics,” wrote Florio.
“Or, in some cases, to talk at all, about anything.”
“Brady wasn’t even addressing politics,” writes Florio.
Florio said that USA Today’s decision to update its story is “admirable,” but “not nearly as admirable as not misconstruing his words would have been.” Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016-2017 NFL season.