Tom Brady grew from a sixth-round draft choice into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Off the field, he’s a celebrity with a supermodel wife and lucrative marketing deals.All that has made the New England Patriots superstar the object of admiration and respect to some, jealousy and enmity to others.On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hears Brady’s appeal of a four-game suspension for using deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.Goodell’s decision upholding, reducing or eliminating the punishment won’t likely cause major changes in perceptions of a four-time Super Bowl champion — perceptions enhanced during a stellar 15-year NFL career, yet sullied in one game in which he may have knowingly used deflated footballs.“He is a guy that I have said for a long time is the best in the business,“ said Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethslisberger, who faces the Patriots in the season opener Sept. 10, when Brady’s suspension is set to start. „I have a lot of respect for him on the football field.“
Buffalo coach Rex Ryan, a longtime nemesis, says Brady’s legacy hasn’t been tarnished.“I just know the kind of quarterback that he is and what he’s meant to me personally,“ Ryan said, smiling and sighing about Brady’s success against him when he coached the New York Jets. „I’ve got nothing but respect for the guy.“Companies the boyishly handsome 37-year-old has represented in stylish ads — Under Armour sportswear, UGG footwear, Movado watches — haven’t abandoned him.Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank sat with him at ringside at the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio fight May 2 in Las Vegas, where Brady flew by private jet after attending the Kentucky Derby. Less than six weeks later, Plank said at an appearance in Boston, „Tom has our undying support.“On Memorial Day, fans held a „Free Tom Brady“ rally in a parking lot outside Gillette Stadium.
Backers of other NFL teams may not be as supportive.“People would like to know: yes or no,“ said Marc Ganis, president of sports business consulting firm SportsCorp. „If it’s no, then clear the guy. And if it’s yes, then nail him.“The 243-page Wells report issued May 6 said Brady „was at least generally aware“ of plans to prepare balls below the NFL-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. Wells defended that in a conference call a few days later.But in a 16-page report this month, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, said, „The Wells report conclusions are likely incorrect.“Goodell will reach his own conclusions.“If you’re not from the area, the Patriots are an amazingly easy team to hate,“ said Adam Brasel, an associate professor of marketing at Boston College. „The actual severity of the punishment is not going to change people’s perceptions. They’ve already made up their minds.“