Tom Brady announced his retirement from the NFL Tuesday, and it should have been a celebration of a legendary athletic career that may never be replicated.
But Brady’s retirement announcement came with a surprising and uncharacteristic unforced error.
In his statements on social media, which included nine pages/posts on Instagram and Twitter, Brady never once thanked the Patriots.
Not a single mention of Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, the Patriots or their fans. It was like the first 20 years of his career never existed.
It came across as shockingly petty. And bitter. Or, at best, hopelessly naïve. It was not what most of us expected from Brady on his retirement day.
The reaction across New England was swift. The snub dominated local TV and radio. Social media erupted. Head Patriots cheerleader Scott Zolak was beside himself.
“It’s a massive ‘bleep you,’ if there isn’t anything else coming,” Zolak said on his radio show on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Was the omission intentional? An innocent mistake? Brady’s agents didn’t respond to a request for clarification. And a Patriots spokesman said the team had already released a statement Tuesday by Kraft, who ended it by saying, “I will always feel a close bond to [Brady] and will always consider him an extension of my immediate family.”
It sure didn’t seem like a mistake. Brady had plenty of time to correct it. And, all he came up with, three hours after the initial announcement, was a reposting of the Patriots’ statement on Instagram, adding a few short phrases: one, thanking “Patriots Nation” with a couple of heart emojis, and then, “Beyond Grateful. Love You All.”
That almost made it worse. He couldn’t even be bothered to write a complete sentence, let alone articulate a few thoughts about his 20-year run in New England.
The Patriots omission was glaring, because everyone else in Brady’s close circle got a shout-out in his announcement.
On Page 1, there was a picture of him as a Buccaneer.
On Page 2, Brady didn’t say he was retiring, but rather, “I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore.”
Then he thanked his Buccaneers teammates. Then the fans and the entire Tampa-St. Petersburg region.
Brady thanked the Glazer family, owners of the Buccaneers, general manager Jason Licht, coach Bruce Arians, and the Buccaneers assistants. He thanked “every single” Buccaneers staffer and employee. Then his trainer and guru, Alex Guerrero. Then his agents, Don Yee and Steve Dubin. He thanked his parents,his wife and children, and the rest of his family.
He pledged to cherish his friendships, relationships, and memories. He name-dropped his new ventures, Brady Brand and autograph.io. And said he wants “to spend a lot of time giving to others and trying to enrich other people’s lives, just as so many have done for me.”
He ended it, “With much love, appreciation and gratitude, Tom.”
And that was it. Nothing about the Patriots.
To quote a popular NFL phrase, Come on, man!
It turned what should have been a day of celebration into a day of confusion and resentment in New England. Why would Tommy snub the fans that love him the most and the team that helped make him a worldwide sensation? It felt like being dumped, without being told why.
Are Patriots fans being overly sensitive? Not really. This is a fascinating and unexpected development. If you’re not upset over it, you should at least be curious as to why he couldn’t once mention the Patriots.
The most generous explanation may be that Brady wanted to acknowledge the people who haven’t had the spotlight yet — those involved with the Buccaneers, his trainer, his agents, and his family. He already had thanked the Patriots, Belichick, and Kraft profusely, first when he left New England in March 2020, and again this past October when he visited Gillette Stadium with the Buccaneers.
On March 17, 2020, Brady posted statements on social media with the headlines, “LOVE YOU PATS NATION” AND “FOREVER A PATRIOT.” In his retirement announcement, he didn’t have to profess his love again for Patriots fans to know that New England will always hold a special place in Brady’s heart.
But someone should have whispered in Brady’s ear, “Maybe you should just include a paragraph thanking the Patriots.” It was what people were talking about across Boston and on much of social media Tuesday.
If this is all just an innocent mistake, it’s still a horrible oversight that detracts from Brady’s announcement.
And it’s the second fumble of Brady’s retirement. First, someone from his inner circle got loose lips with a couple of ESPN reporters over the weekend, leading to a premature announcement. Then, omitting the Patriots in his retirement announcement. Brady would never tolerate those kind of mental gaffes from his offense.
There’s also the alternative explanation, the one that Patriots fans probably don’t want to consider: Maybe it was an intentional snub. We thought Brady and the Patriots had put all their differences behind them after Brady’s visit with the Buccaneers in October. Brady and Belichick spent 25 minutes in the locker room catching up. Brady hugged every Gillette Stadium employee in sight. He acknowledged after the game, “It was a very emotional week.”
But perhaps Brady’s wounds run deeper than we knew.
There’s a third scenario: that Brady didn’t include the Patriots because he’s coming back to the organization, in one capacity or another. Never say never, but don’t bet your mortgage on that one. Brady may return to the NFL in an executive or ownership capacity, but it’s hard seeing it happen in New England.
Whatever the reason, it undoubtedly was an error by Brady. It soured what should have been a day of celebration in New England. And, strangely, he brought it all on himself.
Read more about Tom Brady
- Tom Brady announces his retirement from the NFL after 22 seasons
- Dan Shaughnessy: Tom Brady goes down as the greatest athlete in the storied history of Boston sports
- Chad Finn: There was one Tom Brady prediction that never came true
- Tom Brady wrote 962 words and didn’t mention the Patriots. Read his retirement announcement
- These five Tom Brady records might never be broken
- Timeline: Looking back at the highlights from Tom Brady’s 22-year NFL career
- Photos: Looking back at Tom Brady’s 22-year NFL career
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.