When the Patriots take the field against the Steelers in Sunday’s AFC conference championship game, new President Donald Trump will be squarely in New England’s corner.
Trump counts Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady as friends, and he’s made it known that he has their support pretty much any chance he gets.
While Brady was once infamously spotted with a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker and is often name-dropped by Trump, the future Hall of Famer tries his hardest to avoid talking about the new president.
The night before his inauguration, Trump boasted that Brady had called to congratulate him. When asked about it the next day, Brady responded, “Not much to say.”
But did Brady make the call?
“Ummm … did I call him? Let’s talk about football,” Brady said, per Yahoo! Sports.
The Daily Beast has an in-depth look at the relationship between Trump and Brady.
While Belichick acknowledges his friendship with Trump, he downplayed a letter he wrote to the then-GOP candidate as non-political and one of “hundreds” he writes to people every month.
Kraft, on the other hand, has been more open about his ties with Trump. He was in DC for the inauguration festivities and was a guest at Thursday night’s donor dinner. So were Redskins owner Dan Snyder and top Broncos exec John Elway.
The New York Times wrote while most NFL owners “tilt Republican,” Kraft is “among the most loyal donors to Democratic candidates.” Still, he has considered Trump a friend since Trump invited him to play golf at his club in West Palm Beach 20 years ago.
“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” Kraft said.
He added, “I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”
Jets owner Woody Johnson, meanwhile, has been appointed by Trump as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Johnson will maintain ownership of the Jets but will have to give up day-to-day control of the team, the New York Daily News reported.
But Trump’s association with the NFL isn’t all merry.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, before the election, reported that Trump was causing friction within locker rooms.
“Interviews … with dozens of NFL players about Trump over the past four months reveal that scenes of a divided America sparked by the candidate have been replicated inside at least a half-dozen locker rooms of its most popular sport,” Freeman wrote.
Much of that division was along racial lines. An informal survey of 43 players taken four weeks before the election found these results:
–20 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.
–2 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Donald J. Trump.
–21 of 21 white NFL players plan to vote for Trump.
In a past life, Trump was a bitter enemy of the NFL, and he ended up on the losing end of that battle.
Before the USFL’s second season in 1984, Trump bought the upstart league’s New Jersey Generals for about $9 million. He helped bring the league to the forefront, signing Doug Flutie to a six-year deal worth about $8.3 million, at the time the biggest deal in football, and adding him to a roster that already included Herschel Walker. Trump also made a bid for legendary coach Don Shula and in general, kept the USFL in the spotlight.
But Trump was also the person most responsible for the league’s demise.
Before its would-be fourth season, he insisted the USFL should move its games from the spring to the fall to take on the NFL.
“If God wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t haven’t created baseball,” Trump’ said at the time.
The idea was opposed by most of Trump’s fellow owners, who turned out to be right. The idea turned out to be a bad one.
Television dollars are key to the success of any major sports league, and since the NFL had deals in the fall with all three networks, there was no room for USFL games.
Trump’s proposed solution: Sue the NFL for running a monopoly.
So to court the leagues went, with the USFL eyeing $1.2 billion of the NFL’s money. While the anti-trust court actually ruled in the USFL’s favor, the league didn’t get nearly the sum it sought. In fact, the NFL wrote the USFL a check for $3.76 – that’s three dollars and sixty-seven cents, with no millions, let alone billions, after it. The matter was settled, and the USFL was out of business.
Here’s author and New York Times writer Joe Nocera talking about Trump’s role in the downfall of the USFL.
This was over 30 years ago. Let’s hope Trump’s stewardship of our country turns our better.
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