Gisele Bündchen is an incredibly accomplished woman, and in many parts of the world, she is more well-known and recognizable than her husband. She is a stalwart environmentalist, an activist for numerous other causes, a best-selling author, businesswoman and mother.
But in an instant Sunday, she was reduced to a piece of property that should be passed around like a bowl of Halloween candy for ... a piece of memorabilia.
Bündchen's husband is Tom Brady, as everyone knows at this point. On Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Brady did an amazing thing: He became the first quarterback in the 101-year history of the NFL to throw 600 touchdown passes in the regular season. It's a record that seems inevitable when you've enjoyed the incredible run of success Brady has for over 20 seasons, and true to form, after the game Brady credited his legions of teammates. (Over 80 players can say they've caught a TD from Brady.)
But Mike Evans, who caught the 600th touchdown ball, was unaware of the historic moment and did what he always does when he scores: give the ball to a fan wearing his No. 13 jersey.
After a brief negotiation with a Buccaneers official, Byron Kennedy, the 29-year-old fan who got the ball, handed it back.
The CBS cameras of course caught the exchange, and commentator Tony Romo offered this creepy narration on what was being said:
The Bucs had to negotiate to get Brady’s 600th TD ball back from a fan 😂 pic.twitter.com/31WAjBJVfU
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 24, 2021
"A date with Gisele. A date with Gisele and I'm in," Romo says, pretending to be the fan.
"OK, Tom will do it. One time, you got it," Romo continues, now voicing the Bucs official.
As if that weren't enough, after hearing details from sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson on what Kennedy agreed to before handing back the ball, Romo doubled down on his belief that a date with another man's wife should have been part of the negotiation.
Because of course Brady would pimp out his wife of 12 years to a stranger for the all-important prize of a piece of cowhide. I mean, it's football, and football is family, so what's the big deal with handing family over in exchange for a little memorabilia, right?
And that's not even accounting for the fact that Kennedy may himself be married or in a committed relationship.
To be clear, Bündchen's achievements aren't the reason why it was offensive. Every woman, no matter her net worth or amount of fame, has agency and is not her significant other's chattel, no matter how many Super Bowls he has won.
It was all so unseemly and crude, the implication that Brady owns his wife and would offer her up in such a way. With the Washington Football Team workplace case still casting a shadow, and with Romo arguably the most visible broadcaster among the NFL's partner networks, his inappropriate quip served to reinforce the general disregard for women in and around the league.
Crude in a different way has been the reaction of Kennedy "fumbling the bag" by not keeping the ball for his own profit or trying to get more from the Bucs and Brady. Via Greg Auman of The Athletic, Kennedy received a different game ball and a $1,000 gift card to the team store, plus Brady indicated that he'd be sending along some swag as well. Kennedy suggested Monday, politely, that Brady could play a round of golf with him as repayment. He reportedly also got two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady, a signed Evans jersey and cleats, and two season tickets for this year and 2022.
Ultimately, Kennedy did the good and decent thing — really, he returned Evans' act of kindness with one of his own.
Or as Kennedy's friend who was at the game with him said, "When Tom Brady asks for something, you give Tom Brady something."
If you take a spin around social media, decency certainly seems to be in short supply these days, especially when there's money to be had. At least one expert said if Kennedy kept the ball he could have gotten $500,000 for it from a collector.
But the ball meant something to Brady. In a career full of milestones, even Brady said there isn't much he holds onto, but that particular piece of equipment was one he wanted. Kennedy acknowledged its importance and the moment and did the right thing.
No creepy tradeoff necessary. Take notes, Tony.