(Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

So what do we think of Tom Brady now?

Brady is the superstar quarterback who has led the New England Patriots to four Super Bowl championships. Lots of kids wear Number 12 Patriots shirts and have Brady posters on their bedroom walls.

In January, however, Brady’s Patriots were accused of purposely deflating the footballs they used when they beat the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, in the American Football Conference championship game. Balls with less air can be easier to throw and catch, especially in wet conditions.

The Patriots and Brady said they did nothing wrong. But the National Football League (NFL) last week issued a report of an investigation that found “it is more probable than not” that two Patriots employees, Jim McNally and John Jastremski, deliberately deflated the footballs before the game against the Colts.

The report also found “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady . . . was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski.”

How does Tom Brady's four-game suspension for "Deflategate" affect his legacy? And what does the punishment mean for the New England Patriots' upcoming season? The Post's Adam Kilgore explains. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

In other words, the Patriots probably cheated, and Brady probably knew about it.

The NFL announced Monday that it was suspending Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season. The NFL also fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two future draft choices.

So what do we think of Tom Brady now?

Sportswriters, television announcers and fans throw around the word “hero” a lot when talking about sports. We say, for example, that Brady was the hero of this year’s Super Bowl because he threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns as the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24. Or we say that Bryce Harper of the Nationals is a hero because he hit three home runs in a single game last week.

So it is understandable that kids, and even adults, think of athletes as heroes. But that misrepresents what a real hero is.

Athletes have physical courage. Great athletes are able to throw a football 40 yards downfield even when 270-pound opponents are about to crash into them. They can hit a last-second shot in a basketball game when 20,000 people around them are screaming.

Real heroes have moral courage. Moral courage is the strength to tell the truth when the truth is not popular. Moral courage is the ability to do the right thing when the right thing is difficult.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had moral courage. He told America the truth about its unfair treatment of African Americans even when many Americans did not want to hear that truth.

Heroes are not perfect. King was not perfect. But there is a reason he has a monument in our nation’s capital.

Brady failed a test of moral courage. It appears that he cheated and then lied to the investigators who were trying to find the truth.

So you can call Brady rich or famous or a Super Bowl champion. But please don’t call him a hero.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 20 sports books for kids. He will be speaking and signing books at the Gaithersburg Book Festival at 10:35 a.m. on Saturday.