In this recent post by Jonathan Weiler from The Starting Five, discusses this Sports Illustrated article where columnist Rick Reilly discusses “Tom Brady as God” (this sub-moniker is on cover). In the article Reilly proceed to go down a checklist of each reason why Tom Brady was so cool. It is unclear whether his copious note-taking was influenced by my previous column “Rick Reilly is a Dork and Why It Matters”. Among those appealing features that Reilly cited was Brady’s sense of “personal responsibility.” Reilly states:
"See, Brady is Namath with a milk mustache. Mothers want him for supper and daughters for everything after. O.K., you might say, but how cool is it to get one woman pregnant (Moynahan) and be dating another (Bündchen)? Well, a) Brady says he didn’t know Moynahan was pregnant until after they’d broken up, and b) Brady is aching to be a full-time dad. He was there three weeks ago for the birth of John Edward Thomas Moynahan.
I kind of cuddled him like a football,” Brady says, adding that it’s killing him that he can’t be in Los Angeles for every sneeze. “I’d love to be out there all the time, year-round, but it’s hard to make that a reality. I live here. But I’ll start lobbying for off days throughout the year.
Personal responsibility. Check."
Yes. You read that last part right. Here is Weiler’s response:
“I honestly have no opinion about Brady’s relationship to Moynahan… I do know two things: 1) that Brady’s desire to be a full-time dad has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether he’s acted responsibly in relation to a child for whom he clearly will not be a full-time dad. 2) I have never seen a professional athlete who fathered a child out of wedlock, with a woman with whom his relationship ended before the child was born, be given so much respect by the media as a father. This morning on the Boomer and Carton show, the new WFAN morning team concluded an interview with Brady by asking how his kid was in a way that made it impossible to tell whether Brady was living under the same roof as his child or not. If there are other examples of other professional athletes having kids under such circumstances who get this kind of treatment, please let me know. I want to emphasize – I have no personal opinion about this particular case – I am not privy to any of the intimate details. I am struck, however, by the contrast in treatment of Brady’s situation to those of other athletes who had kids in similar circumstances. Remember, this is an issue to which Sports Illustrated once devoted a major cover story.”
Weiler is referring to the famed and controversial 1998 cover of NBA player Greg Minor’s son called “Where’s Daddy”, which with token exception, focused on the African-American athletes. The fact that Sports Illustrated tracked down Minor’s two year old son, stuck a basketball in his hands, and had him look up at the camera for that “perfect shot” was another SI stroke of marketing brilliance. And while I have the very same “are there any other examples of Brady treatment” that Weiler has, the issue and past Sports Illustrated issues need to be examined one step further.
In 1998, Sports Illustrated also covered single-parent Mark McGwire with the cover “One Cool Daddy” which was written by… Rick Reilly. And while I do not have the issue to draw upon right now, the question is: has the media covered any positive stories of fatherhood amongst African American athletes? Now I’m not even necessarily talking about “the Brady treatment” and I’m not even talking about the glorification of single parenthood ala McGwire. And since I have extensively documented Sports llustrated’s long-standing bias against Barry Bonds, I never expected them to chronicle “Bonds as good father” despite some excellent photo ops of Barry hugging his son Nikolai after smacking history-making home runs. No, my standards for SI are already low. I am talking about ANY in-depth positive treatment of ANY African-American athletes as fathers. And while I have not performed any extended research on the question at hand, the Sports Illustrated’s past imagery does not exactly tell a great story about balanced journalism. But you can judge for yourself…