Is it time to begin a debate as to which Boston athletes belong on our Mount Rushmore of social justice?


n Ted Williams used his Hall of Fame induction speech to advocate for players from the old Negro Leagues to be considered for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

n David Ortiz, speaking at a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park just five days after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, delivered these never-to-be-forgotten words: “This is our (expletive) city. And nobody’s gonna dictate our freedom.”

Now we have Patriots quarterback Tom Brady defending members of his team who chose to take a knee during the national anthem prior to last season’s Gillette Stadium showdown against the Houston Texans.

Is he a social justice warrior?

Or should we disqualify Brady from the discussion on the grounds he’s, you know, un-American?

Brady’s much-publicized backyard interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast Sunday, included some back-and-forth on the polarizing kneeling issue.

Brady said this to Oprah: “I think there were a lot of really good, healthy conversations coming out of it in our locker room … the great part about sports are the relationships.

“I’ve been in it for a long time. I’ve been with guys from all different parts of the country: Every color, race, belief. And you know what? You respect what other people – I do, I respect why people are doing what they’re doing, and they’re doing it for different reasons, and that’s OK. You can do things for your reasons, they can do things for their reasons and you have respect for that. But I thought it was great.”

This is the key part of the quote: “I respect why people are doing what they’re doing, and they’re doing it for different reasons, and that’s OK.”

There’s also this business about “healthy conversations.”

If we were doing preseason power rankings for the national Euphemism of the Year title, “healthy conversations” would be No. 1.

For some perspective, let’s consider what former Patriot Matt Light said after last year’s kneeling episode.

Light said he was “ashamed” to see players take a knee, and “If you think that it’s OK to take a knee during our national anthem and disrespect openly the national anthem, you are wrong. As a guy that’s been there and helped set up the Patriot Way so they can walk in there and do what they do, it’s beyond disheartening. It’s the first time I’ve ever been ashamed to be a Patriot. And I promise you I’m not the only one.”

Again, Captain America here is a former Patriot, which means he wasn’t in the room for those “healthy conversations.” But it’s not like Light played in the 1940s, either. He was a Patriot as recently as 2011, which would suggest his opinions reflect some current players.

If Brady’s words mean anything, he’s not part of that group. He’s not “ashamed” to be a Patriot.

As for “The Patriot Way,” it would be nice if it had a couple of off-ramps leading to respecting “why people are doing what they’re doing” and understanding “they’re doing it for different reasons.” (Brady’s words.)

Matt Light apparently sees “The Patriot Way” as something entirely different.

Brady may not be the ally the left would want him to be, but at least he’s not “ashamed” that Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Brandin Cooks and other members of last year’s Patriots took a knee.

These players, and others around the league, weren’t being jerks. They were taking principled stands, hoping to focus attention not on themselves but on a cause. Some of these same players also took a stand last November when, on their own time, they participated in a midweek Gillette Stadium ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

I hope that came up during those “healthy conversations.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.