Patriots Fans Have Mixed Feelings About Brady, Belichick, Kraft Ties To Trump

By PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Not even the grandest of American sports spectacles is immune to the nation’s deep political divisions.

Patriots fans have spent nearly two full seasons being reminded of the close friendship between President Donald Trump and their team’s three top figures — owner Robert Kraft, star quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

As the Super Bowl approaches, that has put the typically united Patriots Nation at odds over how hard to celebrate a team chasing its fifth Super Bowl win under Brady and Belichick. New England faces the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5.

Some fans in the northeastern states that backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election say they’re struggling to reconcile their football loyalties with their distaste for Trump. Many other fans — more than 1 million people voted for Trump in Massachusetts alone, Clinton won by less than 3,000 votes in New Hampshire and Trump picked up one of four electoral votes in Maine — say critics are simply injecting politics where it doesn’t belong.

“It’s pathetic. We have a double standard where if you admit you like Trump, you get blasted by the media,” said Brian Craig, a Lowell, Massachusetts, Republican who voted for Trump. “If Brady endorsed Hillary, no one would care.”

Plenty of people put politics aside completely when they root for their teams. But after an election that magnified the country’s deep differences of opinion, the Super Bowl matchup offers easy symbolic foils for anyone inclined to play politics.

Trump’s friendship with Brady has been fodder for sports talk radio and local news in New England since September 2015, when one of Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats was spotted in Brady’s locker and the quarterback said it would be “great” if the GOP hopeful in a crowded primary field won it all.

Most of Atlanta is represented by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has been excoriated by Trump because he boycotted the inauguration and doesn’t consider Trump a “legitimate” president because of intelligence reports of Russian involvement in the election. Trump won Georgia in November with more than 2 million votes.

“It’s been very tough,” said Segun Idowu, a Boston civil rights activist who grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in Atlanta, voted for Clinton and will likely be rooting for the Patriots. “The Trump versus Lewis metaphor seems apt to me.”

Patrick Dugan, a Clinton voter from West Hartford, Connecticut, said his Patriots fanhood has become “increasingly lukewarm” because of the team’s Trump connections.

“You can’t put that genie back in the bottle,” he said. “It’s out there at this point. And once it’s out there, it colors how you look at them, whether you want it to or not.”

Bill Belichick and girlfriend Linda Holliday with Donald Trump (Linda Holliday via Instagram)

Bill Belichick and girlfriend Linda Holliday with Donald Trump (Linda Holliday via Instagram)

Trump drew attention to his relationships with the Patriots several times throughout his campaign and leading up to his inauguration, including an election eve rally where he read a glowing letter from Belichick and claimed Brady voted for him, prompting a denial from the quarterback’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen.

In an Instagram comment, Gisele Bündchen told a fan she and Tom Brady do not "back" Donald Trump. (WBZ Graphic)

In an Instagram comment, Gisele Bündchen told a fan she and Tom Brady do not “back” Donald Trump. (WBZ Graphic)

Brady, for his part, hasn’t revealed his vote and questioned this week why his long friendship with Trump is “such a big deal” after being asked whether he called the Republican to congratulate him, as Trump claimed in a speech attended by Kraft the night before his inauguration.

“If you know someone, it doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they say or do,” Brady said.

Indeed, few recent marriages of sports and politics have caused this much hand-wringing. There was relatively little furor when basketball megastar LeBron James — fresh off winning a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers — endorsed and stumped for Clinton in his home state of Ohio, which Trump won anyway; or when now-ousted Bills coach Rex Ryan introduced Trump at a campaign rally in Buffalo last year.

As president, Trump drew on his sports connections when he tapped New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as the next U.S. ambassador to Britain. And Peyton Manning, the retired Denver Broncos quarterback who won the Super Bowl last year, joined Trump and other leaders in Philadelphia on Thursday night as Republican lawmakers gathered to map out their congressional agenda.

Conversations on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks show the Patriots have certainly won over some new fans because of the Trump ties.

And many in Patriots Nation are certainly dreaming of sweet revenge if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to hand the championship trophy to Brady. Goodell suspended Brady for four games at the start of this season for using underinflated footballs in a playoff game, a case that winded through two federal courts and spurred lots of disdain for Goodell among Patriots fans.

For plenty of others, the Trump association is just another reason to dislike a franchise that’s enjoyed unprecedented success but has also been the part of two high profile cheating scandals (“Spygate” and “Deflategate”) and whose coach cultivates a gruff, stand-offish persona.

“I want the Falcons to win for normal sports fan reasons, but I want the Patriots to lose in embarrassing fashion for political reasons,” said Todd Moye, who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

As the Super Bowl approaches, some skeptical New Englanders say they’ve made their peace with politics and, for now, are just focused on the game.

“I have family members who support Trump. I’m not going to write them off, either,” said Clinton voter Jack Peterson of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. “You just try to compartmentalize.”
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Follow Philip Marcelo at www.twitter.com/philmarcelo . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/philip-marcelo

Comments

One Comment

  1. TJ Cee says:

    I don’t get the relationship between Kraft, Belichick and Brady with Donald Trump. These guys aren’t idiots, so it’s weird that they would be friends with a man-child like Trump. That being said, everyone has friendships that no one on the outside can explain, so to quote Belichick, “It is what it is.”.

  2. The Patriots fans worried about that friendship are the Democrat Liberals of NE and only the fanatics Demo-Libs. No every one is worried. If I as a Patriots fan, the friendship of Mr Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with President Trump are not my concern. I voted for who I wanted, only the losers are complaining. They are the snowflakes of NE.

    1. You were dumb enough to go to NE Tech so I expect this from you.

  3. To All Pat fans the other Trump fan is Gronk ! “said he would love to party with Donald not Hillary As a Trump supporter I now am a patriots fan ! GO PATS GO DONALD !

    1. Did you learn grammar at Trump U?

    2. Of course its more fun to party with Trump, he hires hookers that he cheats on his 3rd wife with.

  4. I’m surprised that this article does not include the interview with Robert Kraft this week at Super Bowl media day, when he was asked about his friendship with Trump and answered…

    “When [Kraft’s wife] Myra died [in 2011], Melania [Trump] and Donald came up to the funeral in our synagogue, then they came for memorial week to visit with me,” Kraft told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out. He called me every week to see how I was doing, invited me to things, tried to lift my spirits. He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.”

    I think that explains it fully. And for me, I would be disappointed if Kraft let go of a relationship with someone who had been a friend in a time of needs, because he disagreed with his politics.

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