Trump, despite his friendship with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady, has not shied away from criticizing the NFL, especially during the regular season. He blasted Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to remain kneeling or seated for the national anthem spread across the league in the fall.
During a January 2016 campaign stop in Reno, Trump called out the sport for becoming “soft like our country has become soft.”
“It’s a Sunday; who the hell wants to watch these crummy games? I just want to watch the end. By the way — okay, let me go there for a second,” he told the crowd, digressing onto the topic of football during the playoffs. “Let me end that story. So we gave them Iraq; we’re stupid. We’re stupid. I’ll change things. Believe me; I’ll change things. And again, we’re going to be so respected. I don’t want to use the word ‘feared.’ What I just said about a game — so I’m watching a game yesterday. What used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on [tackle], a violent — if that was done by Dick Butkus, they’d say he’s the greatest player. If that were done by Lawrence Taylor — it was done by Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, right? Ray Nitschke — you used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch, right?
“Now they tackle. ‘Oh, head-on-head collision, 15 yards.’ The whole game is all screwed up. You say, ‘Wow, what a tackle.’ Bing. Flag. Football has become soft. Football has become soft. Now, I’ll be criticized for that. They’ll say, ‘Oh, isn’t that terrible?’ But football has become soft like our country has become soft. [Applause] It’s true. It’s true. The outcome of games has been changed by what used to be phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. Now these are rough guys, these are rough guys. These guys — what they’re doing is incredible, but I looked at it and I watched yesterday in particular. So many flags, right? So many flags. And I could imagine a guy like Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus, who was really rough, and some of these guys sitting there watching. ‘Wow, what a beautiful tackle.’ ‘Fifteen yards! That’s — the game is over.’ You can’t kick a field goal any more.”
He did admit that he loves Brady, and although Brady did not accompany the team to Trump’s White House after its Super Bowl LI victory last year, he presumably still feels the same about the quarterback, if not the sport. “It’s boring — although I love Tom Brady. I gotta tell you. I do love Tom,” he said during the 2016 rally. “He’s a great guy. But it’s different. But it’s become soft, and our country has become soft.”
Super Bowl interviews began during the administration of George W. Bush and continued through Barack Obama’s two terms. Last year, when the game was carried by Fox, Trump sat down for a prerecorded interview with Bill O’Reilly. While he may not be doing an interview this year, he’ll still have his thumbs and his cellphone.
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