Tom Brady Talks to Oprah About the NFL Kneeling Controversy and How Wife Gisele 'Stretches' Him

"You better have that empathy for everybody," the NFL star said of the league's kneeling during the national anthem controversy

Tom Brady is opening up about both his football career and his personal life in a rare sit-down with Oprah Winfrey.

With wife Gisele Bündchen sitting off-camera, Winfrey asked the New England Patriots quarterback if he enjoys being married.

“I love coming home to someone who engages me every night,” he says with a smile. “She makes me laugh, oh my God.”

But the 40-year-old athlete shares that it’s the way they balance each other out that truly makes their relationship special.

“In some ways we’re different when in some ways we’re so similar,” he explains in clips provided to PEOPLE. “She flies in the sky — she’s so creative — and I’m very rooted. So she stretches me in ways that without her, I couldn’t be stretched. And I think I keep her — in some ways, in my belief — I keep her just close enough where she doesn’t go so far.”

Brady continues, “She knows that she can always count on me, and I know I can always count on her. But we do have the values from our family that I think our moms and dads both did a great job.”

Winfrey also tackles the NFL’s ongoing national anthem kneeling controversy. As the talk show legend puts it, “Taking a knee divided the country.”

Brady responds that it all comes down to respect.

“I think there were a lot of really good, healthy conversations coming out of it in our locker room,” he says. “The great part about sports are the relationships, and I’ve been in it for a long time. I’ve been with guys from all different parts of the country, different color, race, belief … I respect why people are doing what they’re doing, and they’re doing it for different reasons, and that’s okay. You can do things for your reason, they can do things for their reason and you have respect for that.”

The four-time Super Bowl MVP added that their discussions included how to show their support for the movement, which they did by locking arms during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“We support what people are going through,” he says. “I’ve been playing sports long enough, everyone comes from something different. I think showing respect for everybody in a locker room full of guys trying to go the same direction, you better have that empathy for everybody. That’s what sports are about.”

Michael Dwyer/AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced last month that owners who gathered for the league’s annual spring meeting in Atlanta voted to fine teams with players who do not stand while on the field or sidelines during the national anthem.

In one concession to protesting players, the owners voted to change the rule requiring athletes to be visible on or near the field during the national anthem — instead allowing them to remain in the locker room without penalty.

In another teaser for the interview, Winfrey asks if Brady has begun thinking about life after football — a question he’s also addressed with PEOPLE.


Despite reports that Bündchen is pushing for her husband to hang up his helmet for good, Brady told PEOPLE in March while promoting his book, The TB12 Method, that he wants to continue playing football and has the full backing of his supermodel wife.

“I love playing and I want to keep going ’cause I think there’s more to achieve and I still think I can play at a really high level,” he said. “As long as I’m willing to make the commitment, my family gets the time they need, [then] hopefully I can keep playing the game I love.”

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As for what Bünchen thinks? The father of three says no matter what he chooses, “she wants me to be happy.”

“At the end of the day, she’s been such a supportive wife, and been so supportive of my career,” he said. “I think she wants me to continue to do what I love and continue taking care of myself and, you know, make sure I’m still really present for my kids when they need me and still available to everyone in the family because our kids aren’t getting any younger.”

Quarterback Tom Brady on Legacy & Longevity airs on OWN Sunday, June 17, at 11 a.m. PT/ET. The interview will also be available on the podcast Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations beginning Monday, June 18. The second part of the podcast interview will be available beginning Wednesday, June 20.

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