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Dan Le Batard cowers after implying Patriots prefer white wide receivers 01.24.17 at 1:51 pm ET
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Dan Le Batard came close to saying the Patriots have white wide receivers because they’re a racist organization and Boston is a racist city. But then he stopped just short.

On his ESPN radio show Monday, Le Batard talked about the stylistic differences between the Patriots and Falcons, who will face off in Super Bowl 51.

“Is anyone going to, at any point in 2017 America, point out the contrasting styles we have in this Super Bowl? Two very different cities, the wide receiver cores for both teams are very different,” he said. “When is that going to become a thing as we head towards Super Bowl week and we’re going to have to talk about everything and people are going to get tired of the chess match. Is anybody going to dare to wander into that topic? You’ve got Julio [Jones] and Muhammad [Sanu] and [Julian] Edelman. No? We’re going to avoid that?”

Le Batard, like other ESPN personalities who have defamed Boston in recent weeks, refuses to defend his words when challenged. On Tuesday, he implied his comments were said in jest.

Given ESPN’s history of disparaging Boston, it’s difficult to give Le Batard the benefit of the doubt. Earlier this month, when Celtics fans cheered soon-to-be free agent forward Gordon Hayward during pregame introductions, several talking heads at the WorldWide Leader brought race into the conversation. Jae Crowder, who took exception to fans applauding an opponent, is black. Hayward, of course, is white. For some, the low-hanging fruit was too much to ignore.

On Highly Questionable, Bomani Jones appeared to say Celtics fans like Hayward because of his skin color.

“Is there another arena in the whole country that would get this charged about Gordon Hayward maybe coming as a free agent? Clapping for Kevin Durant is one thing. But if you put Gordon Hayward on the same level as Kevin Durant, you might be the city that had the Kevin Love welcoming tour when he wasn’t even a free agent yet,” he said.

Writer Israel Gutierrez made a similar connection on Around the Horn.

“It’s Boston. They’re famous for having Larry Bird on their team. Gordon Hayward looks more like Larry Bird than other players in the league. So maybe there’s that Boston connection there,” he speculated.

Never mind that Celtics fans also showered then-pending free agent Kevin Durant with applause last season or that Crowder said he was upset his remarks were interpreted as race-related. Don’t let context or facts get in the way of a good rant, like when NBA analyst Amin Elhassan said in a recent podcast Boston is the most racist city in the country north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“Somebody asked me, ‘How would you kind of tabulate or kind of quantify how racist a town is?’ I said, ‘Oh that’s easy. Record scratches per square foot.’ Because I’m telling you, it’s a funny thing from movies, but it’s happened to me for real in Boston. You walk in, the music stops, and everybody who’s all in their individual conversations stops and turns to me. I’m talking places not a stone’s throw from the arena.”

Presumably, Elhassan is referring to the T.D. Garden, the place where Celtics fans cheered for Hayward and within a stone’s throw of where they once cheered for Larry Bird. Apparently, it’s improper for fans to like multiple white players per half-century. They can only choose one. (Jones, Gutierrez and Elhassan all declined invitations to appear on WEEI, by the way.)

There’s no ignoring Boston’s repulsive history when it comes to its treatment of African-American athletes. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate and Bill Russell endured a disgusting amount of hardship. One night, vandals wrote racial slurs on his walls and smeared feces on his bed.

While these shameful episodes shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s reckless to use them as ammunition to support the lazy narrative about Boston being unwelcoming towards black athletes. David Ortiz might be the most beloved Red Sox player of all-time, with Pedro Martinez finishing a close second. Kevin Garnett, who originally didn’t want to play for the Celtics, now says Boston will always have a special place in his heart.

Few black athletes are more outspoken than Martellus Bennett, and he’s seemed to embrace Boston with open arms. This week, in fact, he made a t-shirt that says as much.

If Bennett spoke ill of Boston, race-baiting provocateurs like Le Betard and Jones would probably discuss his comments ad nauseum for the next two weeks. But since he didn’t, his shirt and accompanying tweet likely won’t be mentioned on their respective shows.

At ESPN, slandering Boston sports fans and teams seems to be part of the mission statement. And instead of defending his wild insinuation about the Patriots preferring white receivers, Le Batard decided to deflect. It’s par for the course.

Read More: ESPN, New England Patriots,
Patriots don’t have a Trump problem 01.24.17 at 9:00 am ET
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Susan Pease of Lincoln may not have watched the Patriots defeat the Steelers in the AFC championship game, but it doesn’t appear as if many others joined her boycott. The contest received a household rating of 51.6, making it the second-highest non-Super Bowl performance in team history. Just imagine what the number would’ve been if it was a competitive game instead of a 19-point blowout.

Two weeks ago, SB Nation published a piece about how the Patriots have a Trump problem. The premise, which is supported by one on-the-record interview with Pease, is that the team’s affiliation with the divisive president is causing fans to tune out. But the ratings tell a much different story.

Throughout the season, the Patriots have consistently drawn massive numbers on television. Their affair against the Broncos Dec. 18 was the highest-rated broadcast of the regular season on CBS and the divisional round matchup against the Texans garnered a monstrous 42.2 rating in Boston.

Even more impressively, the market share for the AFC championship game was a whopping 73. That means 73 percent of TV watchers in Boston were tuned into the matchup.

Amazingly, this ratings triumph came on the heels of Trump’s inauguration, which was heavily Patriots-themed. Owner Robert Kraft was in attendance and even photographed at a swanky dinner with Kellyanne Conway, perhaps the President’s most visible surrogate. On Thursday, Trump gave Kraft a shoutout at an event, saying Tom Brady had called him recently.

On Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady said he speaks with Trump from time-to-time. On the night before the election, at a stump speech in New Hampshire, Trump said Brady had voted for him and also read an endorsement letter from Bill Belichick. Though Belichick admitted to writing the letter, Brady hasn’t revealed who he supported.

The Patriots and Trump will forever be tied together, but the ratings show that the vast majority of fans in liberal Massachusetts are able to separate football from politics. When Super Bowl 51 begins in two weeks, Trump will probably be the furthest thing from most people’s minds –– at least for a couple of hours.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots,
Why Roger Goodell doesn’t care if Patriots win Super Bowl 01.23.17 at 4:36 pm ET
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Roger Goodell won't be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Roger Goodell won’t be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

It probably doesn’t make a difference to Roger Goodell whether the Patriots win the Super Bowl. For him, Deflategate is ancient history. He won a long time ago.

When owner Robert Kraft grabbed the microphone Sunday following his team’s blowout victory over the Steelers in the AFC championship game, he seemingly spoke for every aggrieved Patriots fan around the world.

“For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was,” Kraft told a rabid crowd in Foxboro.

It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots. Almost two years ago to the date, the NFL caught the Patriots playing with slightly under inflated footballs against the Colts. Over the next year-and-a-half, even when the science said there was no wrongdoing, Goodell smeared Tom Brady’s character and imposed draconian penalties on the team –– including suspending Brady for four games. Now, in two weeks, Goodell may be in the building when Brady is handed the Lombardi Trophy. Talk about sweet revenge.

Once a regular visitor to Gillette Stadium, Goodell has avoided it since Deflategate started. He’s been in Atlanta for the last two weeks closing down the Georgia Dome, one of the most unremarkable venues in professional football.

It’s unclear whose decision it is to keep Goodell in hiding. According to Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran, Goodell would’ve been at the AFC championship game Sunday if he had gotten his way. So perhaps somebody else in the league office, or the Krafts themselves, are making the call. But then again, it’s hard to believe that Goodell would allow other people to dictate his schedule. After all, this is guy who doesn’t permit his staffers to eat pizza until he gets the first slice.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Roger Goodell
Tom Brady is a fool to wonder why his friendship with Donald Trump is a big deal 01.23.17 at 1:34 pm ET
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Tom Brady doesn't understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand why people care about his friendship with Donald Trump. He must’ve been born yesterday.

In his weekly appearance on Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady shed further detail on how often he communicates with the President. Last week, Trump said Brady called him before the inauguration.

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

In the past, Brady has shied away from talking about Trump. But that wasn’t the case Monday. Just when the conversation was heading in a different direction, he brought up the subject again.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”

While Brady didn’t formally endorsed Trump –– he declined to tell K&C who he voted for –– he aligned himself with him throughout the entirety of the campaign. In September 2015, after a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he said it “would be great” if Trump were in the Oval Office. At that point, Trump had already derided some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and spent years propagating a racist birther conspiracy theory meant to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency. Brady later claimed to be unaware of the political issues at play, but ignorance isn’t an excuse.

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Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
Deion Sanders: Julian Edelman is under appreciated because he’s white 01.23.17 at 11:04 am ET
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Deion Sanders had some interesting things to say about Julian Edelman. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Deion Sanders had some interesting things to say about Julian Edelman. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Deion Sanders says Julian Edelman’s skin color is the reason why he isn’t considered one of the best receivers in the league.

On NFL Network Sunday, Sanders said Edelman, who put up a monstrous stat line during the AFC championship game, is a victim of reverse racism.

“Julian Edelman is one of the best receivers in the league. … It’s like reverse racism,” he said. “I’m not lying. This is real talk. Julian Edelman, just because he’s a caucasian receiver, they don’t give him the credit that he deserves. He deserves so much more. This kid can flat out play. There hasn’t been there an answer for him over the last several years. Julian Edelman moves the chains, he can get deep, he works between the numbers, works outside the numbers, he can throw the football, he can run the football. He does it all, man.”

While the Patriots were largely able to contain Antonio Brown (seven receptions for 77 yards), Chris Hogan and Edelman tore up the Steelers’ secondary, reeling in 17 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns. After the extra-point, Edelman’s touchdown grab extended the Patriots’ lead to 34-9 with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Despite averaging 98 receptions over his last three full seasons, the Patriots don’t pay Edelman like an elite wideout. According to Spotrac, he only took home $2.5 million in base salary in 2016. Next year, the figure bumps up to $3 million.

Edelman’s position, not skin color, is probably the reason why he’s not put on the same level as star receivers like Julio Jones. Given the success of other slot receivers in this offense, he’s largely viewed as expendable. Tom Brady seamlessly transitioned from Troy Brown to Wes Welker to Edelman. He’s the primary reason for their success, not the other way around.

Edelman is an incredible talent, but his stock takes a major hit without Brady. He probably knows that’s the case, too, since he’s never even threatened to hold out for a bigger deal.

Read More: deion sanders, Julian Edelman,
Jim Nantz, Phil Simms are still trying to figure out who recovered Tom Brady’s fumble 01.23.17 at 10:10 am ET
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It’s a good thing Jim Nantz and Phil Simms aren’t calling the Super Bowl this year.

After their bumbling commentary during the AFC championship game, it’s clear they both need to take a long vacation. The low-light of the telecast, which featured its usual mix of Simms malapropisms, came when Tom Brady fumbled the football on a QB sneak in the third quarter. Though the officials awarded the ball back to the Patriots, Steelers lineman Javon Hargrave emerged from the pile with it. That prompted Mike Tomlin to throw the challenge flag.

Prior to reviewing the play, referee Terry McAuley said he was looking into whether there was a fumble and clear recovery. But for some reason, Nantz kept insisting McAuley said there was a “clear recovery by Pittsburgh.” This prompted Simms to admit he had no idea what was going on.

“OK, so I’m confused. So you’re saying you are, too?” Simms asked.

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Read More: Jim Nantz, phil simms,
LeBron James gives LeGarrette Blount a shoutout on Twitter 01.23.17 at 8:37 am ET
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LeGarrette Blount took a page out of LeBron James’ book in the AFC championship game. After scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter, he brought out “The Silencer,” mimicking James’ signature road celebration. James, who was presumably tuned into the game like most sports fans, appreciated the gesture.

Though James is an unabashed Cowboys fan, it was difficult to not admire the Patriots’ dismantling of the Steelers Sunday night. Blount’s touchdown run, which came after he had dragged seven Pittsburgh defenders all the way to the goal line, served as the proverbial nail in the coffin. The burly running back finished with 16 carries and 47 yards.

Of course, when James mentions you on Twitter, it’s only appropriate to return the favor. Blount let him know the shoutout was appreciated.

Read More: LeBron James, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots,
A review of what Boston sports stars have said about Donald Trump 01.20.17 at 4:21 pm ET
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The Patriots and Donald Trump appear to be tied at the hip, with the President mentioning them at almost every turn. The latest string of shoutouts came at a pre-inauguration dinner last night, when Trump pointed out owner Robert Kraft in attendance. He then proceeded to talk about a congratulatory phone call he received from Tom Brady, and referenced Bill Belichick as well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said.

Communication between Trump and the Patriots has gone both ways. Brady talked about his friendship with the former real estate mogul on a variety of occasions and Belichick penned him an endorsement letter, which he read aloud in New Hampshire the night before the election. Kraft may be the closest to Trump of all: He called him a “very close friend” before the Massachusetts primary and has made the rounds in Washington D.C. this week.

In addition to Brady, Belichick and Kraft, several other Boston sports figures have commented on Trump as well. Some of the statements were made in passing, while others were thoughtful commentaries on his rhetoric and proposed policies. All of them garnered headlines:

Most regretful Trump statement:

Tom Brady (Sept. 16, 2015): “I hope [Trump can win]. That would be great. There’d be a putting green on the White House lawn, I’m sure of that.”

This is the comment that started it all. After a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he was asked whether he wants Trump to become president. Once Brady said yes, the floodgates opened. For the last year-and-a-half, Brady has periodically been asked about Trump whenever the president makes an especially inflammatory statement. Each time, he’s sidestepped the question or reaffirmed their friendship. Most infamously, Brady walked off the podium when he was asked about the leaked Access Hollywood video in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. (On Friday, said he wanted to talk about football when Trump’s name was mentioned.)

Though Trump says Brady voted for him, that hasn’t been confirmed. Brady declined to tell Kirk & Callahan who he supported, and told the media that his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, no longer wants him talking politics.

Unfortunately for Brady, that probably won’t be possible. He’s now tied to Trump, thanks to his explanation for that stupid red hat.

Stupidest Trump endorsement:

Clay Buchholz (Feb. 17, 2016): Said he’s supporting Trump, because Trump introduced him to his wife. From the Boston Globe:

“It was 2008 in Anaheim,” Buchholz recalled. “€œIt was ‘€˜Affliction: Banned’€™ fighting, and [Trump] owned the whole circuit. My wife knew him prior, from ‘€˜Deal or No Deal’€™ when he came on the show as a celebrity banker.

“She was helping him host this event in Anaheim. So when we all walked in, he was there, and he saw us and he introduced Lindsey to me.”

Asked if he supported Trump for president, Buchholz gave an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!”

This quote from Buchholz exemplifies why some people are better off staying home on Election Day. Trump may be a great matchmaker, but it’s difficult to see how that correlates to getting the job done in the Oval Office.

Wisest Trump endorsement:

Robert Kraft (Jan. 19, 2017)“Loyalty is important to me, and [Trump] has been a wonderful friend. I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.” –– New York Times

Kraft didn’t officially endorse Trump during the campaign, but it’s apparent he voted for his longtime friend. In November, he even paid Trump a visit at his Manhattan tower.

As a billionaire free market capitalist, it’s not surprising to see Kraft endorse Trump’s economic platform of gutting regulations and lowering the corporate tax rate. You may not agree with the trickle-down theory, but at least there’s a debate to be had. You can follow Kraft’s reasoning, which you can’t for, say, Buchholz.

Most succinct Trump comment:

Isaiah Thomas (Nov. 8, 2016):

It’s hard to be more clear than that. The brevity is admirable.

Most thoughtful Trump comment:

David Ortiz (Sept. 6, 2016):  Ortiz opened up about Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric:

“When you speak like that about us, it’s a slap in the face,” Ortiz said. “I walk around sometimes, and I see Mexican people trying to earn a living in an honest way. And to hear somebody make those kinds of comments, it hits you. I think as Latin people we deserve better. Things have gotten much better in that regard. … As Latin people we deserve respect, no matter where you’re from. And especially our Mexican brothers, who come here willing to do all the dirty work.

“Latin people here in the United States are the spark plug of the country’s economy. Whoever opposes that is going to lose. And not just Latin people but immigrants. I’m talking about people who come from Africa, from Asia, other places. All those people come here with one goal, to realize the American dream, and you have to include them in our group.”

Oddly enough, Ortiz’s name was invoked in the confirmation hearing for Trump attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, referenced Ortiz when he asked Sessions about a speech he made in 2006, in which he said “almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society.”

Read More: Donald Trump,
Troll Bart Hubbuch compares Donald Trump’s inauguration to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 01.20.17 at 12:40 pm ET
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Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 11.27.41 AM

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Bart Hubbuch deleted the tweet and apologized for comparing Trump’s inauguration to 9/11, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

(Previously): Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post is the worst kind of troll. He’s a dishonest bomb-tosser who deletes tweets and hides whenever he’s called out on his idiocy. With that history in mind, his stupefying tweet that compares Donald Trump’s inauguration to Pearl Harbor and September 11 might not be up for long. But even if he deletes it, he can’t run away. Thanks to the magic of screenshots, it will live on forever.

There’s been a lot of anxiety and fear about Trump’s presidency, but putting his inauguration on the level of the attacks at Pearl Habor and on September 11, which combined to killed nearly 6,000 Americans, is gross and offensive. Hubbuch may say he’s being hyperbolic, but he lost the right to play that card when he tweeted out an edited video of Kirk Minihane joking about Patriots fans murdering Roger Goodell at the height of the Deflategate saga.

In Hubbuch’s world, hyperbole and sarcasm apparently don’t exist. His words here should be read literally, and they’re disgraceful.

Read More: Bart Hubbuch, Donald Trump,
Over next four years, Patriots won’t be able to hide from Donald Trump 01.20.17 at 11:37 am ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick didn’t react well when they were asked questions about Donald Trump this season. But over the next four years, they should get used to it. One of the most divisive presidents ever is tied to the Patriots. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask some of his most high-profile backers to answer for him.

On the eve of his inauguration, Trump name-dropped both Brady and Belichick in front of a room full of supporters –– including Robert Kraft. He credited Belichick for teaching him a great work ethic, and let everybody know Brady called to wish him well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said while appearing to point at Kraft.

Brady probably didn’t think he was making a political statement when he placed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker a year-and-a-half ago. As he said several times throughout the campaign, he’s “good friends” with Trump. It’s perfectly normal for good friends to support each other.

But that doesn’t mean he was forced to stick with Trump at every turn. Even Vice President Mike Pence condemned Trump’s remarks about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women. Brady, meanwhile, walked out of his press conference when he was asked about the Access Hollywood tape.

Patriots beat writers are obligated to cover more than the games on the field. They write about issues surrounding the team, spanning from a nearly 18-month scandal involving deflated footballs to a murderous former tight end. If Trump sends out a tweet calling for flag-burners to get their citizenship revoked or reintroduces his proposed Muslim ban, Brady should get asked about it. As one of Trump’s “good friends,” his perspective is pertinent.

The same applies to Belichick, who wrote Trump a fawning endorsement letter before the election. It doesn’t matter if Belichick never intended for the note to be public. He said he hopes Trump can “Make America Great Again.” So if Trump signs legislation that leads to the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including mothers and fathers, it would be interesting to see if that’s the kind of greatness Belichick has in mind.

Brady and Belichick, of course, are under no obligation to answer any of these questions. On Friday, Belichick wouldn’t even bite when he was asked about his reaction when he heard about Trump’s shoutout. But if they didn’t want to be tied to Trump, they shouldn’t have expressed their support. They’re accountable for their words.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kraft, who’s been spotted around the capital this week, went all-in on Trump.

“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” he said. “I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”

Kraft doesn’t appear to have a problem touting Trump’s economic proposals, which include starting a costly trade war with China, so he should be asked about them after they’re enacted. As a titan of industry himself, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

Trump’s behavior during the transition wasn’t any less inflammatory than it was during the campaign. With that in mind, it’s fair to assume he’ll act similarly once he assumes the Oval Office. That means on many days over the next four years, Trump’s rhetoric or actions will be the No. 1 story in the country. Brady, Belichick and Kraft have aligned themselves with him. They’re forever part of the story, whether they like it or not.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft