By Steve Keating
HOUSTON (Reuters) – While much of the world is talking about U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders, including travel restrictions on seven Muslim-majority nations, players and coaches at the Super Bowl remain silent.
Movie and television stars, business tycoons and politicians have all expressed concern over President Trump’s controversial policies but members of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, who will clash in the National Football League’s championship game on Sunday, dodged questions with the same skill they slip tackles.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was willing to answer a question about his underwear habits but refused to talk politics.
A man of few words, Belichick had none when asked what message he might have for President Trump, simply shaking his head.
Belichick’s quarterback Tom Brady, who will be competing in his seventh Super Bowl, was no less blunt when asked about his relationship with the President, flatly stating: “I’m not talking politics.”
But many people are.
Heavyweights in the film and television industry have been using the awards season spotlight to speak out while the heads of companies such as Apple, Facebook and Nike have denounced Trump’s immigration ban.
Some of the biggest names in other sports have taken to social media to express their outrage including U.S. men’s soccer team captain Michael Bradley and NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, while Toronto Raptors guard and U.S. Olympic gold medalist Kyle Lowry vented his feelings to reporters.
But around the Super Bowl locker rooms Trump politics appear to be off limits.
Even Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is a friend of President Trump’s and attended his inauguration, would not be drawn into a political discussion, stopping the question before it could be asked.
“There are appropriate times to talk about that (politics), I’m so privileged to be here in this hall in the Super Bowl city,” Kraft told a small group of reporters. “This is a time I’m going to keep focused on the joy.”
Kraft had similar advice for Falcons owner Arthur Blank telling to steer clear of anything that would detract from his Super Bowl experience.
“I told Arthur Blank this, he called me and said give me some advice and I said, ‘don’t let anyone ruin these two weeks’,” said Kraft. “There will be a lot of things coming on and pressure and anyone who starts piercing the bubble of happiness get them out of your life.”
As the only practicing Muslim competing in this year’s Super Bowl, Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is closer to events than anyone and while he was prepared to acknowledge his faith he would not address the controversy.
“My name is Mohamed and a lot of people know I am Muslim,” said Sanu, whose mother will travel from Sierra Leone to watch him play on Sunday. “But I am here because of my football talents, not because I am Muslim.
“I am here to talk about football so if you are going to continue to ask me about my religious beliefs, then I am going to tell you the same thing.
“It’s really hard for me to talk about this right now. It would take a lot of time so I just want to focus on the game and focus on football.”
By executive order on Friday, Trump banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – and temporarily halted the entry of refugees.
(Editing by Andrew Both)