When the New England Patriots, President Donald Trump’s favorite NFL team, ran to the right during a play in Super Bowl LIII, Tom Brady called the play “Reagan.”
It was perfectly audible and the message was clear enough for color commentator Tony Romo to translate the apparent political reference to Ronald Reagan for the television viewing audience.
Key Patriots – the owner, the coach and the quarterback – are all friendly with Trump. Owner Robert Kraft once reportedly gave Trump a Super Bowl Ring after an earlier Patriot win. Quarterback Tom Brady said Trump gave Kraft a Make America Great Again hat that somehow ended up in Brady’s locker.
Trump clearly seemed to be rooting for the Patriots heading into the game. He tweeted his congratulations to them after they secured their spot in the Super Bowl, but offered no such praise for the Rams.
Coach Bill Belichick wrote Trump a note of encouragement in 2016, which Trump then read at a rally.
Brady was asked repeatedly about Trump during the presidential election, and without endorsing Trump or his policies, made it clear he was pulling for his friend to win.
It was these relationships that led Trump to predict a Patriots win before game time.
“They have a very special owner and coach, and certainly they have, I guess, the greatest quarterback of all time,” Trump told CBS.
But football teams are large enterprises made up of a lot of people. At least one Patriot, Duron Harmon, the safety who stepped up to help the team keep the Rams out of the end zone, said he wouldn’t be going the White House.
“Nah, they don’t want me at the White House, man,” he told TMZ after the game. Although, when asked, he said he’d be happy to follow the lead of the Golden State Warriors and meet with former President Barack Obama instead.
That Harmon wouldn’t want to meet Trump is unsurprising given he was among a large group of Patriots who knelt during the National Anthem back in 2017. The kneeling protests have mostly faded away. No one knelt during the Super Bowl’s National Anthem.
Trump said before the game that he thinks he and the NFL commissioner have put their differences aside. And Trump pointed to the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement he is pushing as an update to NAFTA which includes a stipulation sought by the NFL that would allow them to make more money from Super Bowl ads in Canada.
There was a mild controversy early in Trump’s administration in 2017, the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl, when it appeared fewer people came to see Trump than had come to see Obama in 2015 to celebrate their win. (The team said in a statement at the time the photo lacked context and it was just that fewer team staffers were included in the picture.)
Among those who didn’t attend the event was Brady, who begged off for family reasons. Patriots star Devin McCourty said he wouldn’t go that year because he didn’t think he’d feel welcome in the White House.
For others, like Dont’a Hightower, it just wasn’t necessary. “Been there, done that,” he told SportsCenter at the time.
Which is how it must feel for a lot of Patriots, who have won three of the last five championships.
Trump should be happy that his favorite team has won two of the three Super Bowls while he’s been in office. He just needs to be ready for some Patriots to not visit him if he decides to have them over.