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Patriots players who plan to skip White House trip are delivering ultimate diss to Donald Trump 02.09.17 at 1:46 pm ET
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Trump will likely take every White House snub personally. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Trump will likely take every White House snub personally. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

In nearly every liberal corner of the country, the Patriots have been castigated for their ties to Donald Trump. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are all friends with the President, defending his character at every turn. But it’s also worth noting that several Patriots players are taking a stand against Trump, humiliating him in public fashion.

In the aftermath of New England’s historic comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, five players have come out and said they won’t be going to the White House this year for a presidential photo-op. Martellus Bennett first revealed his plans to snub Trump at Media Night, saying he doesn’t support him. The tight end reiterated his feelings Sunday.

Devin McCourty, who’s one of the Patriots’ team captains, took his protest one step further. In addition to announcing his intended absence, he says he “doesn’t feel welcome” at the White House with Trump in office. LeGarrette Blount expressed similar sentiments Thursday, telling Rich Eisen he doesn’t think he’s welcome there, either.

Chris Long also won’t be in attendance, and Dont’a Hightower plans to sit out the proceedings as well. (Hightower also didn’t go in 2015 when Barack Obama was president.)

Ever since 1865, when President Andrew Johnson hosted the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs, sports teams have visited the White House for celebratory ceremonies. Ronald Reagan started making it a regular occurrence in the 1980’s, and today, roughly a dozen clubs stop by each year.

Throughout the last 40 years, plenty of players have skipped the customary White House trip. But it’s rare for them to say it was for political purposes. When Larry Bird didn’t go in 1984, he told a reporter the president knew where to find him. Michael Jordan golfed instead of visiting George H.W. Bush in 1991 and a family commitment reportedly kept Brady from meeting Obama two years ago.

When players do reveal their motivations behind a White House absence, it’s a big story. Former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas garnered headlines in 2012, when he said he wasn’t going because the federal government under Obama was “threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.” Ex-Ravens center Matt Birk, a pro-life advocate, made news when he declined to show up in 2013 because of Obama’s support for Planned Parenthood.

With Trump in office, a record-setting number of athletes are expected to forego the White House tradition. For a man who’s obsessed with appearance and aesthetics, that would be an embarrassing blow.

Throughout the entirety of his campaign, Trump flaunted his apparent reverence for sports stars. He campaigned with Bobby Knight in Indiana, promised to present an “Athlete’s Night” at the Republican National Convention and frequently mentioned his three good friends –– Brady, Belichick and Kraft. With that in mind, it only makes sense for Trump’s beloved Patriots to be the first professional team that visits him in office.

Except, leading up to the event, the story will likely be about the players who aren’t going. This week, running back James White said he was still considering a White House boycott, and several of his teammates probably feel similarly. When the Patriots go to the White House this spring, it’s nearly certain that more than five players will opt to stay behind.

Every other person who’s ever sat in the Oval Office probably didn’t spend any time stewing over athletes who didn’t want to come shake their hand during a ceremonial event. But Trump is different. This is a man who on the first full day of his presidency, sent out his press secretary to lie about his inauguration crowd size. He tweets constantly about Saturday Night Live and is obsessed with media coverage. Trump’s apparent insecurities run so deep, that he reportedly brags about the breadth of his electoral college win in phone calls with foreign leaders.

Given his tweet calling millions of protesters “anarchists” and “thugs,” Trump doesn’t appear to respect the right of free speech. He seems to view every sign of dissent, such as a federal judge temporarily halting his possibly unconstitutional travel ban, as a personal slight. An athlete refusing to visit the White House to meet the president –– an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity –– is the ultimate diss.

Nearly 30 years ago, Graydon Carter, now the editor of Vanity Fair, called Trump in Spy Magazine a “short-fingered vulgarian.” To this day, Carter says he occasionally receives photographs from Trump, in which the President circles his fingers in gold sharpie to showcase their length.

Whenever Trump looks at pictures of the Patriots’ visit, he’ll be forced to remember that numerous members of his favorite football team didn’t want to meet him. And by all accounts, it will bother him greatly.

Brady and Co. have long been a source of pride for Trump. But for the next couple of months, as the anticipation for their White House visit builds, they’ll be a thorn in his side.

This post was updated to include LeGarrette Blount’s comments, which were made after the article was published.  

Read More: Chris Long, Devin McCourty, Donald Trump, Martellus Bennett
Donald Trump, after bailing on the Patriots, congratulates them on Super Bowl win 02.06.17 at 12:17 am ET
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Donald Trump congratulated his good friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft on their fifth Super Bowl championship. But the truth is, he bailed on them.

At 8:57 p.m., with the Patriots trailing the Falcons 28-3, the President left his own Super Bowl party. Trump was watching the game at his Florida golf club, flanked by his chief of staff Reince Preibus and wife Melania –– both of whom looked despondent.

In his pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump predicted the Patriots would win by eight points. He also intimated he was rooting for the Pats, saying it’s important to “stick up for your friends.”

That’s what Brady, Belichick and Kraft have done for Trump over the last 18 months. All three of them, and Brady in particular, have stuck up for him in the face of incessant criticism. But that apparently didn’t matter to Trump Sunday. When the Patriots fell behind, he hopped into his motorcade. Brady went on to complete 21-of-27 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Donald Trump: Tom Brady is ‘getting a lot of popularity’ out of their friendship 02.05.17 at 4:22 pm ET
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Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump talks incessantly about his friendships with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. The pattern continued in his pre-game interview Sunday with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

When asked about the criticism Brady and Co. have faced for their ties to him, Trump said he believes it also has been beneficial for them.

“They’re taking a lot of heat. But you know what? They’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it. I think they’re going to do very well. Tom’s a winner,” he said.

Trump didn’t explicitly say he was rooting of the Patriots Sunday, but implied he was pulling for his pals, who he thinks will win by eight points.

“I think the other team is fantastic, though. No, I think it’s a fantastic team –– turned out to be a good quarterback,” he said. “But you know, there’s less pressure on the Patriots, because they’ve been there. Once you’ve won, once you’ve done it –– and they’ve done it –– once you’ve done it, there’s a lot less pressure. So, we’ll see what happens. But you know? You have to stick up for your friends, right?”

Given Trump’s closeness to the Krafts, there’s been some speculation he’ll be the first sitting president to ever attend the Super Bowl. His vice president, noted Brady hater Mike Pence, will be at NRG Stadium in Houston.

When asked on Kirk & Callahan Friday about the possibility of Trump showing up, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft demurred.

“You don’t –– I don’t know. Talk to the White House. They would know what’s going on,” he said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Bill Maher: F— Tom Brady and f— Bill Belichick 02.04.17 at 2:05 pm ET
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Bill Maher has weighed in on the Patriots’ love affair with Donald Trump.

The provocative Real Time host brought up the subject during his closing monologue Friday night, and fired off a salvo of insults towards Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

“The Falcons are playing a team where the owner, the coach and the star quarterback all love and support Donald Trump,” he said. “So I’d really like them to lose by the score of a million-f—— thousand to one.”

Despite attending Trump’s inauguration and saying his policies are “going to be great” for America, Robert Kraft was largely spared from Maher’s onslaught. Instead, the comedian singled out Brady.

“I love the Falcons! I love their running back, what’s-his-face, and the guy who catches the ball, but mostly I love them because Tom Brady was one of the first to display a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, because America’s been so tough on Tom so far,” Maher said. “And back when Tom was asked if he thought Trump would be president, he said, ‘I hope so, that would be great.’ Hey Tom, f— you.”

After reading portions of the fawning letter Belichick sent Trump, which the President read aloud at a campaign rally the night before the election, Maher had similar words for the Patriots coach.

“Wow, that’s some serious butt-licking, coach,” he said. “Let me give you some advice for the big game: F— you, Belichick. F— you and your deflated balls you joyless, cheating f—.”

At the end of his rant, Maher, who’s a minority owner of the Mets, bemoaned the politicization of sports. Kind of.

“[Trump] took something beautiful, a game where millionaires give each other brain damage, and made it tawdry and cheap,” he said. “I don’t want to make everything political, but that’s where we’re headed. Athletes are refusing to stay at Trump hotels. People are unfriending each other on Facebook. Siblings have stopped talking to one another, which makes it hard to get laid in the South.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
Disgusted by ‘Tom Brady’s garbage politics,’ anti-Trump Patriots fans pledge to donate to charity during Super Bowl 02.03.17 at 3:26 pm ET
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It’s unlikely many Patriots fans will boycott the Super Bowl due to the team’s affiliation with Donald Trump. But some fed up fans are pledging to donate to charity.

Boston comedian Josh Gondelman, who’s a writer for Late Night with John Oliver, tweeted Thursday he thinks Tom Brady has “garbage politics.” As a result, he says he’s going to donate $100 for every Patriots touchdown and $50 for every New England field goal to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He and his friend Emma Sandoe, who gave him the idea for the project, are encouraging other fans to do the same, using the hashtag “#AGoodGame.”

In a statement emailed to WEEI, Gondelman says this is his way of coping with the Patriots’ Trump ties.

“I’m a lifelong Patriots fan who has some pretty serious philosophical disagreements with a number of high-profile figures in the team’s organization (namely Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bob Kraft), specifically their ongoing personal friendships with President Donald Trump. I’d like to cheer for the team I grew up loving without feeling like I’m cheerleading the Trump administration too,” he said.

Others using the hashtag have also promised to give money to Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations. Much like newspapers, which have seen a boost in subscriptions in the Age of Trump, advocacy groups are seeing donations fly in. Last weekend, the ACLU received a record $24 million in online gifts. Lawyers for the ACLU were the first to challenge the Trump travel ban, convincing a federal judge in New York City to temporarily block parts of the order.

Since a Super Bowl boycott would be meaningless, Gondelman deserves credit for urging people to put money behind their words. Donating to an advocacy organization is a far more effective way of combating Trump than posting long-winded screeds on Facebook and, probably much to Gondelman’s chagrin, writing jokes for John Oliver. Despite delivering several scathing monologues about Trump during the campaign, Oliver and other late-night hosts shockingly couldn’t change hearts and minds.

This post was updated to include Gondelman’s statement. 

Read More: Donald Trump, Tom Brady,
Jonathan Kraft on Kirk & Callahan: I have no respect for the way Deflategate was handled at 9:06 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft says he supports Roger Goodell as commissioner of the NFL, but it’s apparent he’s still bitter over the way Deflategate unfolded.

In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Friday, Kraft lambasted the way the league conducted the investigation.

“I and our organization have been pretty clear that the whole air pressure situation –– from the night of the AFC championship game through when it finally ended with the appeals court –– it wasn’t well-handled and was poorly executed and was a waste of time, energy and resources,” he said. “I don’t have respect for the way that process was handled.”

Though the Krafts have been vocal about their unhappiness with Deflategate –– Robert Kraft said recently he thinks Goodell received “bad advice” –– some fans have been critical about their seeming cordial relationship with the commissioner. When the Patriots played the Giants at MetLife Stadium last season, for example, Kraft was spotted hugging Goodell on the sidelines. He told K&C the embrace was about a personal matter.

“That weekend was right after the Paris Bombings and we had been talking about –– it becomes a personal story. That wasn’t a salutation. That had to do with something different. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Two of the unanswered questions about the Deflategate saga are the statuses of Jim McNally and John Jastremski, the two low-level Patriots employees who were implicated in the scandal. Kraft wouldn’t confirm or deny their employment with the team. Instead, he said he regrets they got dragged into it.

“As I described, people who didn’t want to be in the spotlight were put in the spotlight,” he said. “People that weren’t looking to be in the spotlight, looking to have themselves made public in lots of ways. That was one of the many bad parts of what I believe was a waste of energy, time and resources.”

Though the Patriots made McNally and Jastremski available at the onset of the Deflategate investigation, they didn’t allow the NFL to conduct multiple followup interviews with them. Kraft defended that decision, saying the team viewed it as unnecessary.

“We cooperated with them that first week,” he said. “We made witnesses available to them, we made electronic devices available to them. I think we cooperated. Did we not make people available a fifth time after we got a letter asking to talk to those people? Yeah, because we were sick of the time-drain on our organization.”

Outside of Deflategate, the other big topic surrounding the Patriots this week has been their relationship with Donald Trump. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Krafts are all friends with the President, with the Krafts even attending his inauguration two weeks ago. Kraft told K&C he feels indebted to Trump for his friendship over the years.

“He was personally critically [helpful] to my father’s recovery after my mother [passed away]. I’ll be forever grateful for that,” he said. “He’s been a close personal friend for a long time prior. Being loyal in life, I think, is a very important character trait. That’s something that’s important to our family and me personally.”

TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE JONATHAN KRAFT INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE

Read More: Deflategate, Donald Trump, jonathan kraft, New England Patriots
NFL omits mentions of Donald Trump and Roger Goodell from official Patriots transcripts 01.31.17 at 4:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady was asked a series of questions about President Donald Trump and Roger Goodell at NFL opening night Monday. But the official league transcript says otherwise.

According to the New York Times, the NFL largely omitted the words “Trump” and “Goodell” from the transcript. “Trump” isn’t written at all, even though Brady was asked three questions about him. Brady received four questions about Goodell, but his name is only written once. Bill Belichick was asked about his friendship with the divisive president as well.

It’s apparent the NFL made an effort to sanitize the Patriots’ portion of media night. ESPN and NFL Network didn’t show any of the Trump questions to Brady or Belichick, instead opting to air their own bits with Patriots players. At one point, NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest was counting how many times Belichick smiled during his Q&A.

It’s not unusual for the NFL to leave questions out of transcripts. In a statement provided to the NYT, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said the transcripts aren’t intended to be verbatim accounts of every exchange. They’re supposed to serve as a summary.

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

Two years ago, the NFL took out Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s answers to questions about Robert Kraft, Goodell and the league’s handling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence case. At the time, Sherman was engaged in a public spat with Kraft, criticizing him for being too close to Goodell. As a result of their friendship, Sherman insinuated the investigation would be biased in favor of the Patriots.

Sherman, of course, was completely wrong. The NFL levied draconian penalties on the Patriots, including suspending Brady for four games. That’s why Brady was asked about possibly receiving the Lombardi Trophy from Goodell Sunday night.

Despite Brady’s four-game ban, perhaps the biggest Patriots-related storyline entering the Super Bowl is the team’s affiliation with Trump. Brady, Belichick and Kraft are all personal friends with the President, and have spoken about him at various lengths this season. But in an apparent effort to steer away from controversy, the NFL decided to expunge questions about Trump from the official record.

In the era of social media, however, the public already knows those topics were broached. The NFL’s attempt to clean things up has only created more of a mess.

Read More: Donald Trump, Roger Goodell, Tom Brady,
Media ignores Peyton Manning’s ties to Donald Trump while hypocritically hammering Tom Brady 01.27.17 at 6:29 pm ET
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Peyton Manning spoke at a GOP retreat. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Peyton Manning spoke at a GOP retreat. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Much like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning is tied to Donald Trump. But the media doesn’t seem to care. Talk about a double-standard.

Manning spoke to congressional Republicans at a GOP retreat Thursday, focusing on leadership and teamwork. His remarks followed a speech from President Trump, in which he bragged about his general election win in Pennsylvania and once again vowed to investigate voter fraud that didn’t happen. If Brady placing a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker 16 months ago counts as a Trump endorsement, then Manning’s decision to speak after him at an event is a proverbial wet kiss.

When the Republican presidential race first started, Manning backed former Florida governor Jeb Bush. He and his brother, Eli, each gave $2,700 to Bush last year. But that didn’t stop Trump from name-dropping Manning on the campaign trail. In an interview last February, he showered the all-time leading passer with praise.

“I very much have always liked Peyton Manning,” he said. “He is a very good guy. I know him. And he is a very, very good guy. ”

That’s not too dissimilar from the way Trump talks about Brady. In a recent interview with TMZ about Deflategate, Trump also lauded Brady’s integrity.

“He’s a friend of mine,” Trump said. “He’s a great guy and he’s great athlete, obviously, but he’s a winner.”

Unlike Brady, who’s called Trump a “good friend” and said “it would be great” if he were elected, Manning deflected when he was asked about Trump last year. He admitted to socializing with him, but didn’t say they were friends.

“I’ve met Donald Trump, I’ve played a round of golf with him a few times out in Tahoe … The times I’ve been around him, he’s been extremely nice to me,” he said.

But actions speak louder than words. In July, Manning posed for a picture with Donald Trump Jr. at a county fair in Mississippi. Imagine, for a second, if Brady were photographed schmoozing with one of Trump’s kids. It would probably be one of the lead stories in the country. That wasn’t the case with Manning. In fact, it nary garnered a mention.

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Read More: Donald Trump, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady,
Kirk Minihane, Gerry Callahan disrobe the Nation’s Dave Zirin in combative interview at 12:45 pm ET
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Unlike other writers who have found themselves in Kirk Minihane’s and Gerry Callahan’s crosshairs, the Nation’s Dave Zirin did come on Kirk & Callahan Friday to defend his piece: “Yes, Tom Brady’s friendship with Donald Trump matters.”

Seventeen minutes later, he was reduced to a stammering mess before hanging up the phone.

In his weekly interview with K&C Monday, Brady said he didn’t know why his relationship with the most disliked president ever is such a “big deal.” To Zirin, it sounded like Brady is removed from reality.

“I heard a little whine. I heard somebody who was exasperated. I heard somebody who literally does not understand why this is an issue,” he said. “It’s like a cognitive dissonance thing. I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Bird Cage, but there’s that scene where Gene Hackman finally sees that Nathan Lane is a guy when he takes the wig off, and instead of being upset he’s just sort of like, ‘I don’t understand! I don’t understand!’

“I think that’s why the thing about Tom Brady –– I think he’s very removed from the hundreds of thousands of people who were in the streets of Boston last week, from what people are saying about Donald Trump. He doesn’t quite get that this is not a normal president and these are not normal times. And this kind of friendship is going to be looked at very closely.”

In his piece, Zirin brings up Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, who raised their fists for racial justice during the national anthem prior to the season-opener. He presumes they have an objection to Brady’s relationship with Trump, even though he hasn’t spoken to either player.

“Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty have not said word one about Tom Brady or Donald Trump. You are presuming they have, and you’re presuming Tom Brady has never had a conversion with them about it,” Minihane said. “You’re looking at black people as an entire race and not focusing on individuals. Maybe Martellus Bennett doesn’t care that much. Maybe Devin McCourty doesn’t care if [Hillary] Clinton or Trump is president. Has that crossed your mind? You’re just assuming things about Tom Brady and his teammates with no facts.”

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Read More: Donald Trump, Kirk Minihane, Tom Brady,
Why Donald Trump’s apparent obsession with athletes could be disastrous for U.S. 01.26.17 at 5:12 pm ET
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Donald Trump is obsessed with athletes. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump is obsessed with athletes. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump seems to be enamored with athletes.

He frequently campaigned with sports stars –– or in Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s cases, mentioned their support on the stump –– and even promised to present an “Athlete’s Night” at the Republican National Convention. Though many politicians pretend to be sports fans, Trump appears to be the real deal. This could carry disastrous consequences for our nation.

In a meeting with congressional leaders Monday, Trump repeated his debunked claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. On Twitter, Trump called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud.

Given that Trump has failed to present any supporting evidence that backs up his theory, there have been questions about how it originated in the first place. As it turns out, the genesis of this wild claim circles back to professional golfer Bernhard Langer, who’s apparently friendly with the President.

Three witnesses to the meeting told the New York Times Trump relayed a story about how Langer, a German-native and two-time Masters winner, wasn’t allowed to vote on Election Day. Trump said Langer told him there were many people surrounding him in line who didn’t look like they were eligible to vote. Then, the President reportedly started rattling off names of Latin American countries where he thinks the voters might have come from.

Langer’s version of the story is different. In a statement issued Thursday, he says the voter fraud account was told to him by a friend. He then relayed the tale to another friend, who told Trump. Langer isn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore is ineligible to vote.

It’s beyond troubling an unfounded anecdote, which may or may not have come from Langer, could spur a widespread investigation into voter fraud. But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that Langer’s connection to the anecdote seems to legitimize it for Trump. According to the Times, he prefaced his story by saying he heard it from “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer.”

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Read More: Donald Trump,