Tom Brady is right. The sports media got it wrong.
No way was he showing disrespect to Patriots owner Bob Kraft when the quarterback appeared in a cameo in the new Netflix series “Living With Yourself,” walking out of an Asian day spa in a strip mall.
“It’s unfortunate people would choose to think I would ever do something like that about Mr. Kraft,” a visibly irritated Brady told a throng of reporters at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. “I think that’s a very bad assessment of my relationship with him. I would never do that.”
Of course, Tom Terrific wouldn’t. Instead, here’s what his cameo was really about: solidarity with his boss. The short scene reduces Kraft’s prostitution charges at the Orchids of Asia Day spa to a punch line in a TV show. As if to say: no big deal.
Brady’s cameo is yet another example of how the NFL in general, and the Patriots in particular, just don’t get it. They don’t get how their actions reveal a deep lack of respect for women.
The similarities between the fictional spa and the scene of Kraft’s alleged crime are unmistakable. Brady emerges from a sketchy strip mall store with blinds partially drawn and Asian lettering. In a later scene without Brady, lead actor Paul Rudd returns to the day spa and knocks on the door. A guy smoking a cigarette nearby wonders if Rudd is desperately seeking a sexual favor.
Kraft — the billionaire who can afford the best lawyers money can buy — has denied the allegations and is this close to having the misdemeanor prostitution charges in Florida dropped. Nothing to see here, just a cultural sideshow to Brady and Kraft’s six Super Bowl championships together.
Yet it’s not. Kraft is guilty in the court of public opinion. He already apologized for his bad behavior when it looked like there was admissable video of his illicit massages.
Brady professes the scene was an innocent coincidence, written four years ago and shot on a green screen this year after Kraft was charged with prostitution. So let me get this straight: One of the world’s most famous athletes who fiercely guards his brand didn’t know he was walking out of a storefront spa that is central to the plot of the Netflix series?
Brady appears in the first episode of the series, which is a sci-fi dramedy about human cloning. Rudd plays a character named Miles Elliott who wants to become a better version of himself. At a co-worker’s suggestion, he checks out the Top Happy Spa.
On his first visit, Rudd runs into Brady exiting the spa.
“First time?” a glowing Brady asks Rudd.
“Uh-huh,” answers a star-struck Rudd. “You?”
“Six,” Brady replies as he steps into a black SUV and is whisked away.
If Brady didn’t know the hornet’s nest he was about to step on with his cameo, Rudd and show creator Timothy Greenberg surely did. Brady was the show’s top choice for the role, and he himself credits his real-life regimented diet with prolonging his NFL career. The show implies that the fictional Brady, played by the real Brady, has cloned himself six times, once before each Super Bowl win.
After Kraft got busted in February for allegedly patronizing an illicit massage parlor, Greenberg thought Brady would back out of the appearance. “Once that happened — Paul texted me or I texted him, and we were like, ‘Oh my God, can you believe this? There’s no way Brady’s doing it now,’ ” Greenberg told Entertainment Weekly.
“And then eventually he agreed. And I don’t know why. [Laughs] I don’t know if people won’t make the connection; maybe nobody cares anymore. But he did it. So we didn’t ask him why.”
Here’s why: The cameo is yet another example of the boys closing ranks.
We’ve seen this before, when the Patriots defended its decision to pick up wide receiver Antonio Brown in September, even after his former personal trainer accused him, in a lawsuit, of sexual assault and rape.
The Patriots could have benched the star player to signal to the world that it takes sexual assault allegations seriously. Instead, the champions made sure Brown played a key role in what would be his first and only game in a Patriots uniform. Brady connected with him four times, including a touchdown, on their way to a 43-0 trouncing of the Miami Dolphins. (The Patriots released Brown a few days later, after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct and intimidation.)
Some of you may be thinking: So what? This is Hollywood, and this is football. This has nothing to do with how anyone treats or perceives women.
But it does. After Kraft was charged with prostitution, three young female leaders at My Life My Choice, a nonprofit that works to end the sexual exploitation of children, wrote a Globe op-ed titled “Dear johns — an open letter to sex buyers.” Kraft and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation have provided financial support to the nonprofit.
“Whether you use words like ‘prostitution’ or ‘trafficking,’ exploitation is exploitation so don’t kid yourself one isn’t a victim,” wrote H., J., and P., whose full names were not disclosed because they are victims of sex crimes. “You may be able to convince yourself that this is a choice or what a woman wants — but whether you are in ‘the Life’ because someone is forcing you, someone is pretending to love you, or you have nowhere else to turn, it is all trauma, and it is degrading. Even more than that it is dehumanizing.”
When you are as big a star as Brady, your words and your actions matter. And Tom Brady, in this brief appearance, helps trivialize prostitution.
There are some things bigger than football, and this is one of them. Brady should have turned down the cameo, and let the show go on without him.