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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Sean Spicer uses Patriots to bash Hillary Clinton; Woman hit by bullet during Cardinals game 05.04.17 at 8:49 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Thursday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB:
Oakland at Minnesota, 1:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB:
Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs, 4 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB:
Baltimore at Boston, 7:10 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Boston at Washington, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA:
Utah at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL:
Ottawa at NY Rangers, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— During his daily press briefing earlier this week, friend of WEEI Sean Spicer referenced the Patriots when answering a question about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Clinton said recently she believes she could have won the election over Donald Trump had FBI director James Comey not announced he was reopening the investigation into her emails so close to Election Day. She said she thinks she would have won if the election had been held on October 27, before Comey did this.

In response to a question from the press about these comments, Spicer said, “I’m a Patriots fan and I think if games ended in the 3rd quarter, there would have been a different team here last week. But you play a game 4 quarters and you play an election until election day.”

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Read More: New England Patriots, St. Louis Cardinals,
New York Times apologizes for misleading Patriots White House photos 04.20.17 at 12:01 pm ET
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The Patriots gave Donald Trump an honorary jersey Wednesday. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots gave Donald Trump an honorary jersey Wednesday. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

The New York Times is falling on the sword for tweeting a misleading pair of photographs comparing attendance from the Patriots’ last two White House visits.

On Tuesday, the Twitter account for New York Times Sports shared a picture from the Patriots’ trip in 2015, when President Barack Obama was in office. Below it, the Times posted a snapshot from Wednesday’s event with Donald Trump, which far fewer players appeared to attend.

The Patriots corrected the Times on Twitter, pointing out staff members were standing on the stairs surrounding Obama in 2015. This year, they were seated on the White House lawn, hence the smaller crowd on stage. Thirty-four players took the trip to Washington D.C.

In a statement issued to Yahoo’s Colin Campbell, the New York Times’ sports editor Jason Stallman admits the tweet was a mistake.

Trump, who seemingly never misses an opportunity to heckle the Times, took a shot at the Gray Lady as well.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, New York Times,
Patriots fans continue to stiff ESPN, showing fractured relationship may never recover 04.18.17 at 3:55 pm ET
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Patriots fans continue to stick it to ESPN on social media. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patriots fans continue to stick it to ESPN on social media. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It’s been more than two years since the start of Deflategate. But many Patriots fans still aren’t letting ESPN live down its erroneous reporting.

There have been at least three cases in recent months of Patriots fans refusing to give ESPN permission to show either their tweets or photographs on television. Perhaps the most notable example happened Monday, when a Twitter user who posted a picture during the Boston Marathon told ESPN it couldn’t feature his work.

“After the witch hunt ESPN led against Tom Brady,?” he wrote. “Absolutely the f*** not. In fact, block me right now. Go f*** yourselves.”

This trend started in September 2016, when the person who videotaped a suspended Tom Brady throwing passes at Milton Academy told ESPN to shove it when the network asked to use his recording. In January, the Patriots fan who snapped a picture of Bill Belichick sleeping on a ferry on his way back from Nantucket expressed similar sentiments to the assignment desk.

While ESPN didn’t start Deflategate, its inaccurate reporting turned the saga into a major national story. On Jan. 21, 2015, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were two PSI below the legal air pressure threshold. The following day, Deflategate led all three national evening newscasts.

As it turns out, none of the Patriots’ balls were two PSI below the limit. Even though those numbers were released when Ted Wells’ report was published in May 2015, Mortensen didn’t delete his tweet until that August. The corresponding article remained unedited as well.

There were other instances in which ESPN appeared to do the league’s bidding. On the same day commissioner Roger Goodell announced he was upholding Brady’s four-game ban, “First Take”co-host Stephen A. Smith said the Patriots quarterback “destroyed his phone” during the investigation. But once the transcript of Brady’s appeal hearing was released, it was revealed that Smith’s report left out two important details: Brady says he regularly cycles through cell phones for privacy purposes, and he offered to obtain printouts of all relevant text messages for the league. Goodell denied the request.

Oh, and there was crying Mark Brunell, too. Who could forget that?

Despite the Patriots’ incredible on-field success –– two Super Bowls in three years –– it’s apparent New England isn’t going to forget about ESPN’s role in propagating Deflategate any time soon. The rash of ESPN personalities who also keep insinuating Boston is a racist city, such as Bomani Jones and Dan Le Batard, probably aren’t helping matters, either.

Thanks to all of ESPN’s rights agreements, it’s unlikely Boston sports fans would be able to successfully boycott the network. But it’s clear that everlasting damage has been done to the relationship between the WorldWide Leader and one of the most premier sports markets in the country. For a company that’s bleeding revenue and subscribers, it’s a troubling reality to confront, especially because it’s self-inflicted.

 

Read More: Deflategate, ESPN, New England Patriots,
Devin McCourty and Chris Long explain decision to skip Patriots White House visit in anti-Donald Trump video 04.17.17 at 9:52 am ET
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Chris Long signed with the Eagles this offseason.  (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Chris Long signed with the Eagles this offseason. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Devin McCourty and Chris Long won’t be joining their teammates Wednesday for the Patriots White House ceremony. They elaborated on their decision to skip the proceedings in a video titled, “StandingPats (Be Patriots).” In it, the two players express their opposition to Donald Trump alongside several Patriots fans.

McCourty, who announced immediately after the Super Bowl he wouldn’t be making the trip to Washington D.C., said he believes Trump’s administration fails to embrace diversity.

“For me, it was simple. I don’t believe in excluding other people,” he said. “Right away I knew I wasn’t going, because it was something I thought about before we even won the game.”

Long added that he wants his son to remember he didn’t stand with Trump.

“My son grows up, and I believe the legacy of our President is gonna be what it is,” he said. “I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey Dad, why did you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?’”

In an interview with ESPN’s The Undefeated Friday, McCourty said he doesn’t agree with an array of the Trump administration’s policies. Martellus Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, LeGarrette Blount and Alan Branch aren’t going, either, but not all are abstaining for political reasons.

Read More: Chris Long, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots,
In chummy CNBC interview, Bill Belichick shows his fondness for celebrity 04.13.17 at 2:28 pm ET
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Bill Belichick, pictured here with Bon Jovi, appears to enjoy his celebrity.  (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick, pictured here with Bon Jovi, appears to enjoy his celebrity. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick may put on a dour demeanor during press conferences. But the truth is, he seems to relish his celebrity –– as long as the pesky Patriots media isn’t asking him questions about his football team.

In a lengthy sit-down interview with CNBC’s Suzy Welch, the wife of retired business executive Jack Welch, Belichick didn’t exhibit any of his gruff tendencies. He smiled, spoke in complete sentences and even laughed a couple of times. It was quite different from how he acts when a reporter asks him about the injury report. That’s for sure.

Take a look at the transcript of Belichick’s game of word association with Welch, for example. If a beat writer were to ask him about Deflategate or Aaron Hernandez, his answers would probably be a bit more curt:

Football: More sport than business. But it is a business. That I respect the game for the game and the sport.

The Media: It is how a team connects to its fans.

Winning: The goal. There’s no medals for trying. This isn’t like eighth grade where everybody gets a trophy. We are in a professional sport, and it is competitive to win. That’s what we do.

Deflategate: Ridiculous.

Aaron HernandezTragedy.

Perfect day: Nantucket.

Now, compare that to Belichick answering a question in a postgame press conference.

Few people use the media better than Belichick. More times than not, it doesn’t benefit him to answer questions about roster construction or coaching strategy, so he abstains. But on occasions in which he wants to get a message out there, such as Deflategate, he’s informative and transparent. Following a rocky press conference from Tom Brady shortly after the scandal broke –– he rambled on about how he prepares his “balls” –– Belichick shifted the narrative. He explained the Ideal Gas Law at a surprise presser two days later, absolving Brady from blame in the process.

Belichick, a known history buff, understands the importance of his legacy. It benefits his reputation to answer softball questions on CNBC or hobnob with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” He shows a different side of himself to a national audience, softening his image in the process.

But there’s likely another reason why Belichick opened up to Welch for an NBC feature in the middle of an Annapolis-based BBQ restaurant: it’s fun. Previewing an upcoming opponent in the bowels of Gillette Stadium to an assortment of grubby beat writers isn’t nearly as glamorous.

Belichick may have no use for the annual AFC coaches photo, but he’s willing to pose for pictures with Kid Rock at Tiger Woods’ restaurant in Florida. The typically brusque head coach also enjoys a longstanding bromance with Jon Bon Jovi. During the AFC championship game, Belichick even took some time to sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” while the rocker led a singalong from a luxury box.

“We’ve shared a lot of great moments together, including the 1990 Super Bowl [with the Giants] in Tampa, where he was in the locker room after the game still taking crazy pictures and stuff like that; great memories from there,” Belichick told ESPN afterwards. “It was great to have Jon here, and I always appreciate his great support. Yeah, it was quite a moment, one that you usually don’t see at a professional football game. It was special.”

The only person who Belichick speaks more glowingly about is President Donald Trump. On the night before the election, Trump read aloud a flowery endorsement letter from Belichick.

“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,” it read. “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.”

Belichick, who’s a paying member at Trump’s luxury resort, Mar-a-Lago, appears to be the polar opposite of the president. He’s involved in every facet of the Patriots’ organization, even showing up at pro days across the country . Trump, meanwhile, once said he skips intelligence briefings because he’s, “like, a smart person.”

Then again, it’s apparent there are multiple layers to Belichick. Inside of Gillette Stadium, he’s a football cyborg. But once he leaves Foxborough, and heads to his $4.6 million estate in Nantucket, he morphs into a star-chaser.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
ESPN appeared to cut Dan Le Batard’s mic when he made a joke about Rob Gronkowski and ’69’ 04.04.17 at 9:52 am ET
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When ESPN’s Dan Le Batard made a joke on his radio show Monday about Rob Gronkowski’s obsession with the number “69,” listeners were met with dead air.

According to Le Batard’s staff, producers monitoring the Miami-based program in Bristol made the decision to dump the quip. This propelled Le Batard to rant against ESPN management.

“Really? Gronk’s making those kind of jokes all the time! I got dumped in Bristol for that?,” Le Batard asked. “Wait a minute! Does Gronk have more journalistic freedom than I do? It’s okay for Gronk to reference the number between 68 and 70, but not me?”

Le Batard’s brief diatribe was a rare “breaking down the fourth wall” moment on ESPN programming. Even though ESPN is a Disney-owned company, it’s surprising that mild innuendo apparently isn’t allowed on the network’s airwaves.

But in defense of management, few jokes are lamer than quips about Gronkowski and “69.” Maybe Le Batard’s bosses were doing him a favor when they scrubbed his line from the record.

(Video is from The Big Lead)

Read More: ESPN, New England Patriots, rob gronkowski,
Nothing wrong with Rob Gronkowski’s WrestleMania cameo 04.02.17 at 8:25 pm ET
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Four months after undergoing back surgery, Rob Gronkowski ran roughly 20 feet and delivered a shoulder block. When phrased like that, his appearance at WWE’s WrestleMania Sunday doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Gronkowski, who was seated ringside for the event at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, interfered during a match on behalf of his real-life friend, WWE wrestler Mojo Rawley.

Given Gronkowski’s injury history –– nine surgeries and three back operations since 2009 –– it’s tempting to chastise him for stepping into the squared circle. His rehab from a forearm injury was stalled in 2013 after he body-slammed a friend on the stage of a Las Vegas nightclub. Gronkowski didn’t return until Week 7, and then missed the postseason with a torn ACL.

But these two situations are different. The night club incident took place in February, less than one month after he reinjured his forearm during a Divisional Round bout with the Texans. This time around, Gronkowski underwent back surgery in early December, meaning he’s had several months to recover.

Most importantly, though, Gronkowski didn’t appear to exert all that much energy Sunday. He ran across the ring, threw out his shoulder and then performed a couple of stomps. Running two miles would likely be more physically strenuous.

Of course, there’s a chance Gronkowski could’ve gotten hurt. But according to that logic, players shouldn’t be allowed to partake in any non-football related athletic activities over the offseason. The line between what’s acceptable and unacceptable appears to be arbitrary. For example, it’s unlikely anybody would be in a tizzy if Gronkowski was spotted playing pickup basketball, even though former Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone suffered a season-ending knee injury on the hardwood 14 years ago.

The video of Tom Brady wiping out on a ski jump earlier this year is far more alarming than Gronkowski’s WrestleMania cameo. If anything, it’s encouraging to see him move so well.

Read More: New England Patriots, rob gronkowski, WWE,
FBI Director James Comey reveals his Patriots hate in bizarre metaphor regarding Russia’s election interference 03.20.17 at 4:39 pm ET
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James Comey testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee Monday. (Jack Gruber/USA Today)

James Comey testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee Monday. (Jack Gruber/USA Today)

FBI Director James Comey said Monday Russia interfered in last year’s presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. He used a metaphor involving the Patriots in an attempt to clarify the agency’s findings.

During his highly anticipated testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Comey likened Russia’s motives for helping Trump to his disdain for the reigning Super Bowl champions.

“I hate the New England Patriots. No matter who they play, I’d like them to lose,” he said, via the Boston Globe. “What the intelligence community concluded was, early on, that the hatred for Mrs. Clinton was all the way all along. When Mr. Trump became the nominee, there was some sense [by the Russians] that, ‘It would be great if he could win, it would be great if we could help him, but we need to hurt her no matter what.’ And then it shifted to, ‘He has no chance, so let’s just focus on undermining her.’”

Later in the hearing, Representative Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) brought up the FBI’s successful search for Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey. On behalf of Brady, he said he would like to thank law enforcement for its work to recover the stolen piece of memorabilia. This time, Comey took a more respectable tone when discussing the Patriots.

“They represent sustained excellence, and as a Giants fan, that drives me crazy,” he said.

Read More: New England Patriots,
Max Kellerman’s 3 stupidest Patriots hot takes 03.16.17 at 4:23 pm ET
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It feels dirty to write about Max Kellerman. The “First Take” co-host is the most transparent troll on sports television, surpassing the man he replaced, Skip Bayless. Those who grant him attention, even if it’s negative, are giving him exactly what he wants –– and thus encouraging him to continue.

But even feigned stupidity deserves to be called out. And Kellerman, who over the last year has predicted Tom Brady’s imminent demise and Bill Belichick’s forthcoming retirement, is in a class all by himself. Ever since taking over for Bayless, he’s spouted a bevy of insane Patriots hot takes. The three most ridiculous are below:

1) Tom Brady ‘will be a bum in short order

Roughly six months after Kellerman predicted the end of Brady’s career, the Patriots quarterback led his team on the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady completed 21-of-27 passes in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Falcons, spearheading the 25-point come-from-behind victory.

With five Lombardi Trophies and four Super Bowl MVPs on his resume, there’s little question Brady is the greatest of all-time. And the scary part is, he’s never been better. Brady led the AFC in passer-rating last season at 39 years old.

Kellerman, who said last summer Brady is “just about done,” couldn’t look more ridiculous right now. His obtuseness was highlighted in the second quarter of Super Bowl LI, when he took a premature victory lap on Twitter.

In the immediate aftermath of Brady’s late-game heroics, one would think Kellerman would’ve admitted defeat on ESPN the next day. But instead, he doubled-down.

“Tom Brady threw a pick six in yesterday’s game, and tried to throw a couple more –– two or three more in the second half of a tight game,” he said. “Look, I love Eli Manning. He’s an incredible clutch performer. But Giants fans know, you need to get lucky as well. Then you have to make the most of the opportunity, which Tom Brady did. But had the DB’s just held onto a few of those balls, we don’t have this conversation right now about Tom Brady’s performance. So it is also somewhat lucky.”

It’s offensive to the audience when you refuse to admit you’re wrong –– even when evidence is slapping you in the face. Kellerman is Bayless without the nuance.

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Read More: ESPN, New England Patriots,
Man gets butt tattoo to commemorate Falcons’ blown lead against Patriots in Super Bowl LI 03.15.17 at 1:30 pm ET
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Last month, a Patriots fan made headlines when he got Tom Brady’s face tattooed on his butt to commemorate the team’s historic comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Though that’s an odd spot to put some ink, the sentiment is understandable.

The same can’t be said for an Instagram user named ““orrazib_,” who recently got a tattoo on his tush of a Fox chyron that shows the Falcons leading the Patriots 28-3 in the third quarter.

In an interview with SB Nation, the man says he went forward with the tattoo so he could stick it to Patriots fans. Huh?

“I just live in Connecticut and cant stand these Pats fans so when i tell them to kiss my ass they will be reminded that they were gettin blownout !,” he said.

That’s all well and good, but he knows the Patriots wound up winning the game, right? Also, if he wants to make the ink visible to all, the buttocks may not be the best place.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI,