Gisele Bündchen, the supermodel and beauty/fitness mogul, also happens to be the spouse of NFL superstar Tom Brady. In a recent interview on the Charlie Rose show, Ms. Bündchen spoke of her husband, suggesting that he has “suffered concussions regularly over the course of his career,” writes Jason Gay in the WSJ.
Bündchen is probably even more famous around the world, with career earnings that eclipse her husband’s. But I doubt there’s a person close to a football player who cannot relate to every word of what she is saying—because it is pure, uncomfortable honesty.
The NFL reacted to Bündchen’s statements regarding her husband with a release, saying that in reviewing its records it found no evidence of a Brady head injury or concussion during the 2016 season and vowed to gather more information. “The health and safety of our players is our foremost priority,” the league statement said. Brady’s agent Don Yee, meanwhile, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that his client “wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion last year,” reports Mr. Gay.
To date, Brady hasn’t said anything in response to his wife’s public comments. But nothing he can say will diminish the overarching dilemma, which is far bigger than one player. Brain injuries are becoming no less than football’s existential crisis. A few years ago, Brady’s father Tom Sr. gave an interview in which he said he’d be “very hesitant” to let his son play were he a kid coming up today, and he’s far from alone. At the same time, Brady himself did a TV commercial in which he touted—to parents—the league’s initiatives to improve safety. You don’t have to be in a football family to be torn by this conflict; all of us engage in denialism and make tradeoffs simply to enjoy a game that millions love.
As Gay points out, Bündchen has a lot at stake.
If we’ve learned anything from football finally coming to terms with the hazard of brain injuries, it is that the aftermath almost never falls to the league, the team, or the representation. It is the family—and often, very specifically, the spouse—who are the front lines, feeling the hardest, most personal impact.
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