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N.F.L. Transcripts Leave Out a Couple of Things: Trump and Goodell

Brady, Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ owner, Robert K. Kraft, also happen to be friends of the president, whose actions, including his temporary ban on refugees and restrictions on immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries, have been highly controversial.

Of the transcripts provided for the interviews with 26 of the Patriots players and coaches and 28 of the Falcons players and coaches, the name “Trump” does not appear in any of them, and the word “president” appears only in reference to team presidents, despite reporters’ having asked about them. The name “Goodell” appears just once.

The league had little to fear. As he often does when confronted with hot-button issues, Belichick said that he wanted to talk only about football. Brady was asked about Trump three times and Goodell four times, and he sidestepped each question.

“I’m not talking politics at all,” Brady said after being asked about his relationship with the president. When asked why, he added, “I just want to focus on the positive aspects of this game and my teammates and the reasons why we’re here.”

Brady was also asked about the possibility of receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Goodell if the Patriots were to win the Super Bowl on Sunday. “I’m not worried about the postgame or anything like that, I just want to go out there and do great during the game.”

Belichick, who is often gruff with reporters, batted away questions about the president.

“I’m focused on our team and for getting ready for Sunday,” he said, lips clenched.

A spokesman for the N.F.L., Brian McCarthy, said the transcripts of the one-hour media sessions, which are typically compiled by public-relations staff from the teams involved, were not intended to be a complete account of the interviews. Rather, the league tries to provide the highlights as quickly as possible to the 2,000 or so members of the media credentialed for the Super Bowl.

“There’s no editing of these quotes by the person who is transcribing nor by the league office,” McCarthy said.

The league has sanitized its Super Bowl transcripts in past years, too. Two years ago, for instance, the league’s transcript of interviews with the Seattle Seahawks’ outspoken cornerback, Richard Sherman, did not include his answers to questions about Kraft or about Goodell and his handling of the domestic violence case involving the Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The fact that the N.F.L. does not even acknowledge these questions and their anodyne answers underscores the lengths it will go not to offend its fans.

Its striving for a neutral stance on thorny political questions is in contrast to the National Basketball Association, which in recent years has willingly taken stances against perceived attacks on L.G.B.T. rights and Trump’s temporary ban on refugees, among others.

Prominent N.B.A. stars including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have also shared their opinions on topics of the day.

Football players, of course, have plenty of opinions. But in the media swirl of the Super Bowl, only a handful of players will venture to share them, and many of them are shared only when a reporter happens to include them in an article. That’s because the league only transcribes interviews with the 10 players or coaches that each team places at designated podiums and a handful of players who mill around.

Martellus Bennett, the Patriots’ loquacious and talented tight end, had perhaps the most pointed response of the evening when asked whether he would visit the White House if the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

“Most likely not,” he told a reporter from The Detroit Free Press. “Because I don’t support the person in it.”

Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, a Muslim, also did not duck questions about the travel ban, something the N.F.L. did include in its transcripts.

“It’s a very tough situation and I just pray that us as a country and a world can be united as one,” he said. “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.”

The abiding culture in the N.F.L., and in football more broadly, dictates that players look inward to the team and do as little as possible to stand out off the field. That is one reason the public reaction was so heated when Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, chose not to stand for the national anthem to highlight the issue of police brutality.

Kaepernick and the handful of players who acted in sympathy with him, though, are rare. Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell summed up that more prevalent position when asked by a reporter on Monday about how he remained focused “with everything going on in our society today.”

“Just really stay out of the social media world because you kind of get sucked into it,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the N.F.L. “You can kind of start believing in some of the stuff you see. So I stay in my own little world and I do what I need to do and just try to stay out of everybody else’s business, to be honest.”

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