Only two weeks into the regular season, and the National Football League (NFL) revealed Thursday that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has the best-selling jersey in the league.
And regardless of the recent controversy surrounding Brady, sales of the quarterback’s No. 12 jersey are impressive. The Patriots haven’t changed their jersey design since 2000, an event typically required for the mass influx of buyers seen. Brady has also worn the same number since he joined the Pats, making the recent high sales even more of a feat.
Under Armour debuted an ad campaign featuring Brady during the Patriots' season-opening win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the commercial, Brady is wearing a shirt with the number ‘199,’ representing, of course, Brady’s overall pick by New England in the 2000 NFL Draft. The company, which Brady endorses, started selling the shirt on Sept. 10 and sold out within hours.
So does Brady have the Patriots’ early 2-0 record this season to thank for the sales?
The controversial quarterback has seen a trend of merchandise success since the Deflategate controversy broke last spring, suggesting that his recent wins are not the only reason for sales.
Sports Illustrated reported in May that sales of Brady paraphernalia immediately doubled after it was reported that Brady’s involvement with under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game last January was “more probable than not” and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sentenced Brady to a four-game suspension. Patriots spokesman Stacey James told ESPN’s Darren Rovell that sales of Brady merchandise at the Patriots Pro Shop were also “uncharacteristically high” during the recent off season.
Local support could be responsible. “Any city with four professional sports teams…will be judged against Boston,” says Adam Kilgore, a sports writer for the Washington Post. “ … its teams have won at a higher percentage than any other city’s. Boston’s history and success may be nauseating to outsiders. It also makes it a natural measuring stick.”
Brady shirt sales rose despite a national poll indicating more people thought should be suspended for deflategate. In early Sept., roughly half of those polled thought the Patriots cheated in the Indianapolis Cots game where the footballs were allegedly under-inflated, according to the The Emerson College Polling Society.
Of the people polled, 47 percent believe he [Brady] should be suspended for being involved the alleged deflation of footballs last season, giving his team an advantage over their losing opponents. Only 25 percent of those polled in February said this, according to the published analysis of the most recent poll.
After Judge Richard Berman vacated Brady’s four-game suspension, the Patriots' preseason finale at Gillette Stadium was an example of Boston’s support for Brady – and its distain for commissioner Goodell. Signs in the stands included “Justice Prevails” and “Brady Deflated Goodell.”
Another potential reason for Brady’s recent success amid scandal could be the shared distaste for Goodell not just in Boston, but also across the country. In this case, a Brady shirt purchase may have been a vote against Goodell.
Goodell faced controversy in 2014 for accusations that he had not done enough to prevent multiple domestic abuse cases by NFL players. Players and fans from many teams have voiced their frustration over the commissioner’s frequent fines, claiming they are unpredictable and unnecessary. And recently, when Goodell took the stage this year to announce the first pick in the NFL Draft, the room erupted in boos. As one fan writes to Peter King at MMQB, “In the court of public opinion, Goodell should have been fired years ago.”
Other fans distrust Goodell because they fear unwarranted accusations could also be made against their favorite team.
“I have no confidence in Roger Goodell’s ability to restore fan confidence in NFL processes…because what the NFL can do to one team or one player, it can do to any team or player if the process is flawed,” another fan writes.