Trump’s bromance with Brady is a complicated affair

Trump’s bromance with Brady is a complicated affair
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There’s no doubt about who President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE is rooting for on Sunday. It's Tom Brady.

Trump's fondness for Brady is the stuff of legend. He defended the star quarterback during the “Deflategate” controversy, and a red “Make America Great Again” hat was photographed in Brady's locker.

At the time, Trump was making his bid for the GOP nomination and courting voters in New Hampshire — where the Patriots just happen to be the local team.

Trump easily won the primary in Massachusetts in 2016, and credited his football friend.

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“A reference like Tom Brady saying Trump’s the biggest winner, Trump is a friend of mine, that makes an incredible difference,” Trump told The New York Times following his victory. “Tom Brady is a great friend of mine. He’s a winner and he likes winners.”

There have also been some rough times.

The president’s harsh criticism of player protests during the national anthem has put Brady in a tough position.

After the Patriots' last Super Bowl win, Brady didn't make it to the White House celebration, reportedly disappointing his presidential fan.

The Washington Post reported at the time that Trump huddled angrily with aides when he learned Brady was skipping the event, and even called the owner of the Patriots, Robert Kraft. Brady later said he didn’t attend the White House celebration because he was spending time with his mother, who was battling cancer at the time.

Trump’s connection with the Patriots dates back prior to his time in politics. 

He was reportedly approached by old ownership in 1988 about buying the team, and he has since developed relationships with Kraft, Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

“It’s talent, it’s chemistry — they have a great chemistry with each other — I mean, I like all three of them, as you know, I’m very good friends with them,” Trump told The Daily Caller this week.

The White House did not respond to questions about Trump's relationship with the Patriots. The president will attend a watch party in Palm Beach, Fla., when the team faces the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta in Super Bowl LIII.

Trump’s public portrayals of his friendships with the Patriots' trio — chronicled over years of interviews and dozens of tweets — have in many ways mirrored the rhetoric that has become synonymous with his political career. It has also forced his high-profile pals to answer for the president's more controversial stances and statements.

The president often boasts that his administration is more accomplished than any other, and he has lauded the Patriots as the ultimate winners.

“Love that Patriots won - Brady is best ever!” Trump tweeted after the 2015 Super Bowl. “Seahawks pass was DUMBEST play in the history of football! Great going COACH B!”

Trump has cast himself as a victim of a “witch hunt” by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE. He regularly decried the NFL’s investigation and subsequent suspension of Brady for his role in a scandal over the inflation of footballs used in a playoff game.

One of Trump’s defenses of Brady was predictive of how he would criticize the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

“They had no definitive proof against Tom Brady or #patriots,” Trump tweeted in May 2015, just weeks before entering the GOP primary field. “If Hillary [Clinton] doesn't have to produce Emails, why should Tom? Very unfair!”

Brady and Trump have been friends since 2002, the same year that the then-budding star quarterback judged the Trump-owned Miss USA competition. They've golfed together, Trump congratulated Brady on the birth of his daughter in 2012 and the president reportedly joked that his daughter Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kushner treat reporters during Jewish holiday of Purim Pavlich: A better higher education Stop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave MORE could have married the quarterback.

The Patriots had a recurring presence during Trump’s presidential campaign and his first months in office, though the team has at times been wary of the relationship.

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The Patriots declined to comment for this story.

Brady displayed Trump's signature campaign hat in his locker in 2015 and has repeatedly called Trump a friend.

But he has also said his wife urged him to speak less about politics, skipped the team's White House visit and called Trump’s plea for players who protest during the national anthem to be fired “divisive.”

Kraft issued a statement ahead of the Massachusetts primary in March 2016 that steered clear of an endorsement but described Trump as a “very close friend of mine for over two decades.”

“After my wife passed in 2011, he was one of the few people who went out of their way and went above and beyond to assist me through the most difficult time in my life,” Kraft told the Boston Globe. “I will always be grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and his continued friendship.”

Kraft, a longtime donor to Democratic candidates and campaign efforts, contributed $1 million toward Trump's inauguration fund, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Kraft later said he was “disappointed by the tone” of Trump's comments about players who protested during the anthem, but the two have apparently kept in touch. A spokesperson for Kraft said they discussed the 2017 GOP tax law, which the owner supported, and Trump last year thanked Kraft for his “excellent advice” in securing the 2026 World Cup hosting bid.

Trump read aloud a glowing letter from Belichick at a New Hampshire rally on the eve of the 2016 election in which the Patriots coach lauded Trump as “the ultimate competitor and fighter.”

One day after Trump scored his stunning victory over Clinton, Belichick said his comments were based on friendship, not politics. He awkwardly deflected additional questions about the letter by repeatedly mumbling the team's next opponent: “Seattle.”

Belichick last year joined the White House Council on Sport, Fitness, and Nutrition, but the famously cryptic coach dodged questions about the president's decision to disinvite the 2018 champion Philadelphia Eagles from the White House.

In fact, the Patriots have been one of just three title-winning professional sports teams to make the celebratory trip to meet with Trump so far.

During the April 2017 visit, Kraft likened the president's 2016 electoral win to the team's victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, where New England trailed by as many as 25 points in the third quarter.

“It’s a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength I greatly admire,” Kraft said.