Before and during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly called out the NFL for its handling of Deflategate, in particular the way it punished his pal, Tom Brady. On Wednesday, we learned just how little the then-candidate thought of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Specifically, Trump thought Goodell was “weak,” “stupid” and “a dope.”
His comments on the commissioner were relayed in a story Wednesday by the New York Times, in which Mark Leibovich, the Times magazine’s chief national correspondent, wrote of how “the new president is hardly shy about reminding people” of his close ties to Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick. Leibovich said he became aware of Trump’s pride in his Patriots association in the fall of 2015, when he spent time with the Republican candidate while working on a profile, a few months after writing about the New England quarterback’s involvement in the Deflategate saga.
After emphasizing what a “good friend” Brady was of his, Trump said he was “disgusted” with how the NFL was treating the star player. Trump then said that Kraft should never have accepted the league’s punishment of his team, a fine and loss of draft picks, in expectation of some leniency toward Brady, who got a four-game suspension. From Leibovich’s account:
Kraft was under pressure, Trump explained. “He choked, just like Romney choked. He said: ‘You know what? They winked at me.’ I said, ‘Bob when you make a deal, you should have gotten it all wrapped up.’ Who ever heard of making a deal like that? Now you got this mess.” Kraft should never have trusted Goodell, he said.
“The commissioner is a weak guy,” Trump said. “When he made the Ray Rice deal, everybody said: You’re stupid. You’re weak. And it was such a weak deal. So now he’s going overboard with their star, Brady.”
He added: “The commissioner is a dope. He’s a stupid guy.”
Those comments were made a year and a half ago, but there’s little reason to think that Trump has softened his stance, particularly given how he went out of his way to praise Brady, Kraft and Belichick during a private dinner for donors the night before his inauguration. Goodell, meanwhile, insisted Wednesday that, despite the fact that he hasn’t attended a Patriots home game since Deflategate began, he didn’t think there was anything “awkward at all” about his relationship with that team.
“We have been very transparent about what we think the violation was,” the commissioner said at a pre-Super Bowl news conference. “We went through a lengthy process. We disagree about that. But I continue to respect and admire Robert, Jonathan [Kraft], the entire organization. They are an extraordinary organization. And they’re extraordinary people, in my view, so I have a very deep and close relationship to them.”
Goodell sidestepped a question Wednesday about the president’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries and refugees, but shortly after the election, he had addressed the Trump’s coarse 2005 remarks about women that were captured by an “Access Hollywood” microphone. “Listen, it makes my job harder at home, too,” Goodell said at the time. “I have twin daughters and a wife and so I have to explain that to them. . . . I think our country has to have more respect for one another and we have to unite.”