Of all the hyperbolic and fallacious theories Donald Trump has floated, from his inauguration drawing the “largest audience ever” to the assertion that he is a self-made man, perhaps the most delusional concerned New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
Last August, The Drudge Report splashed the headline “2016: Hillary Conquers the Stairs” across its homepage. The screamer was accompanied by photos of the then Democratic presidential candidate being helped up steps by two men after slipping during a campaign stop—the implication being that Clinton was in poor health. Her opponent, Donald Trump, an Infowars consumer who’s never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, seized on this, suggesting days later during a campaign rally that Clinton didn’t have the “physical stamina” to take on ISIS. It was classic Trump gaslighting for as we’ve recently learned, Trump is said to suffer from bathmophobia: a crippling fear of stairs or slopes. The following month, candidate Trump drove the point home by appearing on the fake medical program Dr. Oz where he said that, despite being 70, overweight, and subsisting on a diet of fast food, he felt as healthy as… Tom Brady.
“You know, Tom Brady is a friend of mine. We play golf together,” said Trump. “Great quarterback. He’s a phenomenal guy and a great athlete. I’m with him, I feel the same age as him. It’s crazy.” Yes, it is crazy.
On Sunday, February 5th, Brady’s Patriots will square off against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots are three-point favorites to win the high-flying matchup, though a new poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling indicated that they also remain the most disliked team in the NFL. That number likely increased after Brady, when asked about the election of President Trump during a Monday press conference, claimed ignorance, replying, “What’s going on in the world? I haven’t paid much attention. I’m just a positive person.” That non-answer from Brady, who also shared touching anecdotes about his familial struggles over the past year, would be sufficient were it not for the fact that he’s been close friends with President Trump for 15 years, skipped out on his team’s recent White House visit with President Obama, and if Trump is to be believed, gave Trump a call congratulating him on his election win.
Then again, the Patriots as an organization are very team Trump.
Brady’s bromance with Trump began at the 2002 Miss USA pageant, which occurred just one month after Brady led the Patriots to a last-second, come-from behind victory over the highly favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. According to a Sports Illustrated cover story that year, Trump flew Brady out to Gary, Indiana, on his gold-plated private jet to judge the spectacle.
“If one thing stands out about Tom Brady, it’s that he loves those women,” Trump told SI. “And guess what? They love him, too.”
Trump later confessed to Howard Stern how he’d tried to set up his own daughter, Ivanka, with Brady at the pageant. “I think Tom’s a great guy, and I think he and Ivanka would make a great combination,” Trump reiterated in a 2004 interview with Playboy.
Brady, for his part, opened up about his longstanding friendship with Trump in a December 2015 interview with WEEI, mere days after candidate Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting—a discriminatory plan which he’s recently brought to fruition via executive order.
“Donald is a good friend of mine. I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been so supportive of me,” Brady told WEEI. “For the last 15 years, since I judged a beauty pageant for him, which was one of the very first things that I did that I thought was really cool that came along with winning the Super Bowl. He’s always invited me to play golf and I’ve always enjoyed his company. I support all my friends in everything they do. I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life. You’re going from business, kind of an incredible businessman and then a TV star, and then getting into politics. It’s three different career paths. I think that is pretty remarkable.”
If Trump once confessed to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, a relative stranger, that his celebrity entitled him to sexually assault women, one can only imagine how much “locker-room talk” Trump’s exchanged with Brady over 15 years of golf outings. Though their friendship was never in doubt, the notoriously tight-lipped Brady’s endorsement of Trump for president was. On Sept. 5, 2015, one of Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats was photographed resting in Brady’s locker. In a subsequent interview, Brady called the hat a “nice keepsake” and appeared to endorse Trump, saying, “I hope [he’s elected]. That would be great. There’d be a putting green on the White House lawn, I know that.”
News of Brady’s “endorsement” sent Trump over the moon:
But as the backlash against his endorsement of Trump mounted, Brady, ever the media-savvy sports superstar, decided to reverse course just two weeks later, shrugging it off as an “offhanded comment” and alleging he remained undecided on whom he’d be voting for. Still, he proceeded to display that red “Make America Great Again” hat prominently in his locker for months. Trump, too, remained convinced that Brady was endorsing him for president, alleging in a December 2015 interview with The Washington Post that in private, Brady remained a staunch Trump supporter.
“In Massachusetts, I’m at 48 percent. You know why? Tom Brady said Trump’s the greatest,” Trump told WaPo. “He says it to anyone who asks him.”
After Trump won the Massachusetts GOP primary “bigly,” earning 49.3 percent of the vote (31 percentage points more than the next candidate), the former reality show host said Brady’s endorsement helped seal his win in a March 2016 interview with The New York Times.
“Honestly, in that part of the world, a reference like Tom Brady saying Trump’s the biggest winner, Trump is a friend of mine, that makes an incredible difference,” boasted Trump. “Tom Brady is a great friend of mine. He’s a winner and he likes winners. He was very helpful to us in Massachusetts on Tuesday.”
Any time the word “Massachusetts” was mentioned on the campaign trail, Trump was quick to single out Brady’s endorsement of him. At an August 2016 closed-door meeting in Cape Cod with affluent Massachusetts donors, Trump bragged, “I have Tom Brady. And she doesn’t. We have Tom Brady on our side.”
It’s not just Tom Brady, either. The Patriots’ close ties to Trump include the team’s head coach Bill Belichick, who was spotted at the real estate mogul’s Florida country club, Mar-a-Lago, toasting Trump’s Massachusetts primary win with him:
Though Belichick has been even more reticent than Brady in endorsing his pal Trump publicly, such is apparently the case. At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on November 7th, the eve of the election, Trump read aloud a letter that Belichick reportedly sent him that said:
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again.
Best wishes for great results tomorrow,
Belichick, when confronted by reporters about the letter during a press conference on Nov. 9, copped to writing it, stating: “A note that I wrote to Donald on Monday, our friendship goes back many years, and I think anybody that’s spent more than five minutes with me knows I’m not a political person. My comments are not politically motivated. [It’s] friendship and loyalty to Donald.” When pressed about the fawning letter, Belichick sheepishly stared out at the sea of reporters and repeated the Patriots’ opponent that week: “Seattle. Seattle. Seattle. Seattle. Seattle.” It was an incredibly awkward exchange, even by Belichick standards.
Brady was equally mum. During that same presser the day after the election, the legendary QB first seemed to imply that he never gave candidate Trump permission to tout his endorsement, saying, “So you’re assuming I gave people permission?” before deferring to his supermodel wife, Gisele, who is apparently no fan of Trump. “Talk to my wife. She said I can’t talk about politics anymore. I think that’s a good decision made for our family,” offered Brady.
If the QB and head coach weren’t enough, Trump’s biggest supporter among the Patriots is the team’s billionaire owner, Robert Kraft.
Kraft, the chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group—and the owner of the New England Patriots, the New England Revolution, and their field, Gillette Stadium—has an estimated worth of $5.2 billion. Though he once flirted with running for office as a Democrat in the early ‘70s, he served as a closeted Trump backer during his presidential run, offering praise to the divisive Republican candidate on the eve of the Massachusetts GOP primary. Describing Trump as “a very close friend of mine for over two decades,” he also told the Boston Globe: “While I am not comfortable discussing politics publicly, I am very comfortable talking about my friendships with people who happen to be in politics. [The two of us] have had a lot of fun together socially, including a very memorable evening in 2005 when I had the privilege of being at his and Melania’s wedding.”
At a Jan. 19th dinner for his campaign donors in Washington D.C., Trump personally shouted out Kraft, who was in attendance.
“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever because he has a great quarterback in Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” he announced onstage, pointing at Kraft. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You’re gonna do great.”