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Today’s debate: Applaud Tom Brady’s devotion or respect pandemic’s reach

John Romano | The new Bucs quarterback is defying a recommendation from the NFL's Players Association by continuing to meet teammates for voluntary workouts.

So, have we reached the point in the Tom Brady Story where we must collectively decide whether to sell our souls? Surely, someone in New England has a contract that spells out exactly what ethical standards we should expect to sacrifice in pursuit of a Super Bowl.

I mean, isn’t there a template for Spygate or Deflategate?

I’m only asking because conversations seem to be trending in that direction on social media this week. Brady and his renegade practices at a Tampa prep school have become a litmus test of sorts. Support TB12, or respect COVID-19.

On the one side, you have fans who are applauding Brady’s leadership and dedication by continuing to gather groups of players for voluntary workouts despite the NFL Players Association’s request to shut practices down league-wide.

On the other side, you have fans who are concerned Brady and his cohorts are showing a remarkable lack of common decency by ignoring social distancing just as an increase in coronavirus cases are turning Florida into the nation’s latest hot spot.

And in between, Brady seems amused.

Related: Tom Brady, Bucs still working out despite team’s positive COVID-19 cases

To be honest, that’s what bothers me most. After Tuesday’s workout, Brady posted a picture on Instagram of himself and Rob Gronkowski with the caption, “No Excuses.” On Thursday, it was a shot of Brady drinking out of a water bottle underneath a banner that read: “Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself — FDR”

What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Tom Brady's Instagram story included this photo and caption after Thursday afternoon's voluntary workout. [Tom Brady Instagram]

Is Brady suggesting that medical professionals — such as the U.S. Surgeon General and the top physicians for the NFL and the NFLPA — are fear-mongering when they recommend face masks and social distancing as keys to slowing the coronavirus?

Words and deeds matter when you’re one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. And for Brady to not only ignore medical advice, but then to seemingly flaunt it on social media requires a special kind of hubris.

Tampa Bay is seemingly on the precipice of a full-blown medical crisis. The area’s largest cities and counties have all recently asked residents to wear masks when in public. Spring training facilities have been shut down. Restaurants and bars that recently re-opened have also shut down.

Related: Two Bucs players test positive for the coronavirus

This isn’t a partisan political debate. It’s common sense and common courtesy. Even if you believe re-opening the country and protecting the economy is our most important objective, you should still understand that the game plan works better if we’re not stacking people up in hospital corridors.

Even with safety protocols in place in sanctioned facilities, we’ve seen college football players, NFL players, NHL players, PGA golfers and MLB players test positive in the past week. Does that mean Brady and other Bucs are going to test positive? No, but it suggests they are putting themselves at risk. And once they leave that practice field, they are putting everyone else in Tampa Bay at risk.

I understand that’s not their intention. And, having watched years and years of crappy football at Raymond James Stadium, I can appreciate the eagerness of the players willing to show up at Berkeley Prep to perfect their timing and get more familiar with their franchise quarterback.

But there is a bigger story here than a team’s pursuit of a championship. It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice, but it would help if some of the biggest names in the community were showing a little more consideration about the place they live.

The quote used by Brady on Thursday was from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inauguration speech in 1933 when the nation was in the latter stages of the Great Depression. It was meant to strike an optimistic tone for a populace still reeling from unemployment and lost savings.

It’s one of the most famous quotes in U.S. history, but it was not the only line from that speech worth remembering:

“Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”