Just before Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Donald Trump sat down with Bill O’Reilly for an interview and once again mentioned that he’s friends with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick and star Tom Brady. Despite acknowledging that Brady and Belichick have taken some heat for being linked to him, Trump picked the Patriots to beat the Atlanta Falcons by eight points, saying, “You’ve got to stick up for your friends, right?”
This has deep roots — and for some New England fans, the Patriots-Trump connection is deeply uncomfortable.
It all changed for some Patriots fans in 2015 after reporters spotted a “Make America Great Again” hat in Tom Brady’s cubbie in the Patriots locker room.
“All of a sudden, Brady’s conspicuous absence when the team visited then-President Barack Obama in the White House after winning the Super Bowl in 2015 didn’t seem so innocent,” wrote lifelong Patriots fan and President Trump critic Luke O’Neil in a PostEverything essay.
“It didn’t have to be this way,” he added, citing that famous campaign hat and slogan. “None of us would’ve given much thought to Brady’s politics if he hadn’t introduced the idea himself early in the campaign…”
Now O’Neil, like many others in New England, which is largely painted Democratic blue on election maps, finds himself facing a dilemma. Can you continue to support a team or star who supports — or at the very least doesn’t condemn — a politician you despise?
The answer, of course, is yes. For one, sports fandom is about as easy to quit as a family member, O’Neil reasons. But luckily for him and others in his situation, there’s now a way to cheer on Brady and New England’s other Trump supporters, including Belichick and Kraft, without feeling as morally compromised.
Meet one of Twitter’s newest trending topics: #AGoodGame. Dreamed up this week by “Last Week Tonight” writer Josh Gondelman, who expressed similar misgivings about the team as O’Neil, the hashtag is a sign of rebellion. Those who use it pledge to donate money every time the Patriots score to causes that stand in opposition to Trump’s policies.
“I’d like to cheer for the team I grew up loving without feeling like I’m cheerleading the Trump administration too,” he told Boston magazine this week.
It didn’t take long for others to follow suit, with fans pledging donations to civil rights organizations, refugee aid funds, women’s rights and health outlets, and so on.
“It’s heartening that some other folks have jumped on board,” Gondelman told Boston magazine. “I’d like to think that even if this is partially a craven attempt to assuage my own guilt and complicity, I can do more good than harm by rallying people to do a little nice thing.”