Kraft and the Patriots presented Trump with the ring during the team’s April visit to the White House to honor them for the Super Bowl LI win, as a way to thank Trump for his hospitality. Trump reportedly said he was “honored” that the Patriots were the first championship team to join him at the White House after he took office.
Things have gotten more complicated since then. Trump started a war with the entire NFL over players’ protests of racial inequality and oppression during the national anthem. His connections to the Patriots remain, but they may not be the same after a dramatic season.
Robert Kraft and Donald Trump have been friends for years
Kraft’s wife, Myra, passed away after a battle with cancer in 2011. Kraft said during the week leading up to Super Bowl LI that Trump and his wife, Melania, came to the funeral and spent time with Kraft as he grieved. But Trump didn’t stop there.
“Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out,” Kraft said, via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “He called me every week to see how I was doing, invited me to things, tried to lift my spirits. He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.”
Kraft has also supported Trump politically. He’s on record as having given $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee via Kraft Group LLC, where Kraft is the chairman and CEO. He has also publicly commented about how he believes Trump’s economic policies will benefit the nation.
Trump said that Kraft called him personally to commend him for passing the new tax bill.
“He said based on this tax bill, he just wanted to let me know that he’s going to buy a big plant in the great state of North Carolina and he’s going to build a tremendous paper mill there or paper products plant,” Trump said, according to John Chesto of the Boston Globe.
Trump read a letter from Bill Belichick to a crowd at a rally
Belichick fielded question after question regarding a letter he sent to Trump before the 2016 election.
Trump announced during his campaign he had the support of Belichick and Tom Brady, then shared a letter he claimed was from the Patriots head coach.
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign,” Trump read aloud, according to Boston.com. “You have dealt with an unbelievably slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully — beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. 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. Best wishes for great results tomorrow.”
Belichick confirmed that he sent the letter to encourage Trump.
“Our friendship goes back many years,” Belichick said via USA Today. “Anybody who spends more than five minutes with me knows I’m not a political person. My comments are not politically motivated. I have a friendship with Donald.”
Tom Brady rounds out Trump’s trifecta of Patriots pals.
Tom Brady had a Make America Great Again hat in his locker
The Make America Great Again slogan is intrinsically tied to Trump and forever will be. So naturally, when a hat bearing the phrase showed up in Brady’s locker shortly after Trump confirmed his candidacy for president, it implied support.
Brady clarified the situation, telling WEEI that Trump sent him the hat through Kraft. But he also expressed admiration for Trump and what he’s accomplished.
“I mean it’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish,” Brady said, via TIME Magazine. “He obviously appeals to a lot of people, and he’s a hell of a lot of fun to play golf with.”
Trump has tweeted about his relationship with Brady.
Congratulations to Tom Brady on yet another great victory- Tom is my friend and a total winner!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2015
But it hasn’t all been rosy between Trump and the Patriots.
Trump picked a fight with the NFL, and the Patriots responded
When Trump referred to any NFL player who peacefully protests during the national anthem as a “son of a bitch” and implored owners to fire them for it, he couldn’t have anticipated the backlash he’d get from owners.
That included Trump supporters, like Kraft, who released a statement via the team saying he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the statements made by the president.”
Belichick issued a statement saying that he would discuss these matters with his players and he preferred to keep those conversations private. But Brady came right out and said he didn’t agree with the president’s position, in a rare moment of forthrightness.
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what (Trump) said. I thought it was just divisive,” Brady said on WEEI in Boston.
Trump hasn’t softened his stance on the issue. His war of words against the NFL and its players rages on. So if the Patriots manage to win yet another Super Bowl against the Eagles, there’s no guarantee they’ll even get an invitation to the White House, despite Kraft, Belichick, and Brady’s ties to Trump.