I’ve watched or attended every New England Patriot’s game since 1991. I won’t be doing either this Sunday.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a New England Patriots fan. For a long time, the Patriots were a very bad football team. They were the laughing stock of the league. I spent many a winter on cold metal benches angry at my brother for dragging me to see an awful performance every other Sunday.
All that changed though with the arrival of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Four Super Bowls and a few controversies later, the legend of the greatest coach-player duo is still growing on the gridiron.
Bill Belichick is a genius on the football field. But something changed for me when he publicly endorsed the now president-elect.
On the eve of the election, Trump spoke at a rally in New Hampshire and read out loud a letter written by Belichick. In it, Belichick praised the candidate’s perseverance and work ethic, and he enthusiastically, publicly supported Trump’s candidacy.
This all shocked me to the core. Then when Trump won, it sparked a series of personal reflections like never before. After 350 games of unwavering support, I now needed to step away from my team.
It may seem like a small, silly protest and have you thinking, “It’s just football,” but the emotions felt by many, many groups are real and palpable.
I need time to reconcile the fact that Belichick publicly supported someone who has spouted so much hate. It’s been terribly difficult trying to explain this to my friends.
I have a bunch of text “chat rooms” where my closest friends and I chew the fat on a myriad of subjects. To be clear, they’re all wonderful humans and I’m lucky to have them as a support system.
After the election, some of them weren’t as worried about what could happen to the freedoms of minorities, women, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community. While I admire that practical mentality, I was shocked. Then, I realized why I felt the way I did.
I’m the only person of color in this conversation. We never talked about it and we didn’t address it.
It was hard to try to explain my palpable fear to them. It was difficult to express my emotional state after witnessing a campaign filled with divisive racism, sexism, homophobia, fear mongering, and the marginalization of all non-white people. I gently tried, but privately, I cried.
Sports are part of the fabric of who I am, but for now, I have to rip it off like velcro.
Sports are my escape. They’re a way for me to remember my hometown. But right now, watching the Patriots isn’t either of those things. I need to step away. This is not a condemnation of the team. This is not a condemnation of New England. I am proud of my city, and I love my friends.
As far as Bill Belichick and the Patriots go, however, I need them to understand supporting this kind of candidate has questioned my allegiance to a team I’ve grown to love over the past 25 years.
There are bigger things than the game.
We don’t know if those statements and proposed policies of mass-deportation, profiling, wall building, rescinding basic human rights, and disregard for sexual assault are going to become normalized in America. I need time to process it all.
There is much more to worry about than a football game, so I’m going to step away, gain some clarity, and prepare myself for the next four years. And maybe, perhaps, the playoffs.