Tom Brady's Opinion on Kneeling for the Anthem Is Pure Emotional Intelligence. You Can Learn From It

I keep wanting to not like Tom Brady, for the usual “one man shouldn’t have it all” reasons. He’s won too much, he has too much money, he’s married to a supermodel, he’s impossibly good-looking. He might have cheated in multiple NFL games (just Google “deflate gate”).

But when he says things like he did in a June interview with Oprah Winfrey, it’s hard not to at least show some respect for him–a critical theme, as you’ll read in a moment.

Here’s what Brady said when asked about the inflammatory issue of football players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of injustices:

Here’s a transcript:

I respect why people are doing what they’re doing. And they’re doing it for different reasons, and that’s OK. You know, you can do things for your reason. They can do things for their reason, and you have respect for that. But I thought it was great. I’ve been playing sports long enough to know everyone comes from something different, and I think showing respect for everybody, in a locker room, with a team of guys trying to go in the same direction–you better have that empathy for everybody. That’s what sports are about.

And that’s what life’s about, no?

Look, I recognize Brady is a polarizing figure and the issue of standing (or not) for America’s anthem is even more so. But I’m drawn to the raw truth that we’re in desperate need today of reminders on the importance of respecting one another.

I’m not talking about respecting monsters who advocate for white nationalist rallies or who shoot up schools. I’m saying that I can remember no other time in my life when mutual respect among everyday fellow human beings seemed to be evaporating so quickly. In the workplace, in every place.

Research from the University of Michigan’s Jane Dutton showed an astonishing 90 percent of workers polled said workplace incivility has become a serious problem. But you don’t need research. Just look all around you today to see the growing amount of pure rudeness. Is it all caused by overpopulation? Growing pressure in the workplace to do more with less? By increasingly poor role models all-too-much in the public eye?

I don’t know. But I do know respect, like so many other movements (and yes, we must now think of it as a movement-in-waiting) starts with each one of us.

Here’s what you can do to bring what I call “respectcognition” (recognizing others through basic means of respect) back:

1. Recognize the value of others’ opinions and ideas.

Go beyond this to actively seek out opinion and input from other people, even from those not ordinarily in the loop. Doing so says, “You matter.”

2. Inquire and listen–really listen.

Live and listen attentively in the moment. Paraphrase the main points to show you’re listening. Practice the WAIT principle and ask yourself “Why Am I Talking?” Make it a point to remember a person’s name when you’re newly introduced. Ever forget that person’s name immediately after the fact? We can all do better.

3. Recognize people’s state of mind.

Imagine an invisible sign around someone’s neck that speaks to his or her state of mind. What does it say? Being sensitive to what may be going on in other people’s lives is a basic form of respect.

4. Recognize different styles of communication.

Adjust, accommodate, appreciate. Reward people for being who they are. This is especially important for leaders who deal with overtures all day long and have countless opportunities each day to role-model respect.

5. Recognize the value of others’ time.

And be on time yourself. Nothing says “I don’t respect you” like not respecting their time. I’m still working on this. When I’m late, I know in my heart it’s not because I don’t respect the other person. And yet I show up as such anyway.

6. Recognize social comfort zones.

Be fun. Have fun. Be careful when making fun. Anyone in any role of authority should realize the ripple effect when they demonstrate it’s OK to violate common-sense comfort zones with insensitive humor.

7. Recognize the past.

In the workplace, it’s important to show respect for who worked on what, especially if you’re changing a decision or direction or commenting on days gone by.

8. Stay available and approachable.

As a leader, it’s respectful to recognize that the opportunity to connect with you is valued. And it’s OK to be professional and personable.

9. Recognize others’ existence.

Say hello to people you pass. No one has actually invented invisibility yet. And the more names you learn and use, the better.

I certainly don’t think Tom Brady fumbled his response in highlighting the need for respect. Now it’s up to us to carry the ball.




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This article by Scott Mautz also appeared on To read more Inc. articles by Scott Mautz, click here.