Should Off-the-Field Actions Affect Our Support?

By, Rani B. ’21

While a majority of the Upper School cheered on the Pats coming down Boylston Street in their victory parade, some Winsor students chose not to partake in the celebrations. You may wonder, why on earth anyone would not want to see Gronk shirtless and chug a beer? Some students were not able to leave school for the parade, others may have disagreed with the Patriots’ stance on political matters, others simply are not Pats fans, or in some cases, they may not support the Patriots in recent controversies. However, I believe in supporting the Patriots despite their recent controversies, because I don’t think that these issues define the whole team. I think that there is much more to the team than their stance on kneeling during the anthem or the recent allegations against Robert Kraft. Be that as it may, other people have different motives as to why they want to support or not support the Patriots during these turbulent times. The Patriots, with their many appearances in the playoffs and six Super Bowl, wins since 2001, have brought together many people in New England, but have also been a controversial team, especially outside the region.

Some fans did not attend the parade because of NFL policies regarding the kneeling of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem. Kaepernick was and still is protesting police brutality and racism in America, but the movement that started with him has spread across the NFL and to other professional sports as well. In response to players kneeling during the anthem, in May 2018, the NFL “banned players from kneeling in protest during the playing of the national anthem before games. If they choose not to stand, they can stay in the locker room, but if they violate the new rule, their teams will be fined” (NPR). However, coaches, players, and managers have all taken different stances about enforcing this policy.

The Patriots, however, were one of the teams that supported their players’ kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2017-2018 season. However, this further divided Pats fans, as many people believe that kneeling during the national army is disrespectful towards the U.S. armed forces. Additionally, Robert Kraft and Tom Brady’s general support of President Trump, is reason enough for some people with opposing political views to stop supporting the team. Personally, I am not against kneeling and I believe that it does not disrespect the American flag, but it is a way for professional players to use their platforms to fight what they believe in.

Recent allegations against Robert Kraft for soliciting prostitution in Florida have also divided the allegiances of Pats fans. Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting someone to commit prostitution at a day spa, which is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida (CNN). A question that I think all New Englanders face now is whether we should support or not support the Patriots after these controversial political stances and accusations.

I think that the allegations of solicited prostitution against Robert Kraft is something that the Patriots management and players must address properly, in addition to the NFL. These issues are similar to an article written by the Panel executive staff, published earlier in this volume, that examined the debate of art vs. the actions of the artist; Pats fans need to ponder the heavy question of whether to continue to appreciate art (or sports) over the actions of the artist (or athlete/sportsperson), especially when the artist/sportsperson has been accused of a serious misconduct or crime. Nancy K. ’19 shared, “Obviously what Kraft did is really awful and disappointing, and he’s the face of the Patriots, so that reflects poorly on the entire organization and league, but I don’t think we can let his bad actions tarnish what the team has accomplished. I still love the players, the incredible team, and more importantly, the sport.” On the other hand, Haley K. ’20 commented “I think it’s important to hold the team accountable for their actions and not to ignore the Patriots’ actions because we cannot ignore the current heavy controversies. I think that it sets a dangerous precedent to segregate a team from its legal legacy.” If one wanted to protest the Patriots, other than not attending the parade, someone could support another team, and/or boycott the Patriots and not divulge money on their merchandise. However, if you’re like me, next winter will (hopefully) find me celebrating the seventh ring for New England.