As Donald Trump's presidential campaign grows ever more serious and ever more divisive, his most notable supporters are suddenly finding themselves in the spotlight, facing questions about just how far their support for Trump runs.
Count Tom Brady in the "supporter" camp, albeit with a bit of reluctance. For the first time since Trump made his most strident anti-Muslim declarations yet, Brady was asked just how much he supports his friend.
“Can I just stay out of this debate?” Brady laughed on his regular Tuesday morning interview on WEEI. “Donald is a good friend of mine. I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been so supportive of me — for the last 15 years, since I judged a beauty pageant for him, which was one of the very first things that I did that thought was really cool. That came along with winning the Super Bowl. He’s always invited me to play golf. I’ve always enjoyed his company."
Brady continued, speaking of Trump more as a friend than as a legitimate political candidate: “I support all my friends in everything they do," he said. "I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life. You’re going from business, kind of an incredible business man and then a TV star, and then getting into politics. It’s a pretty different career path. I think that is pretty remarkable.”
Several prominent athletes, including Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have spoken out against Trump, and specifically Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering America for an undetermined period of time. Deadspin offered $100 to the first reporter to ask Brady about Trump's proposals and beliefs; it's unclear whether this qualifies.
Trump, meanwhile, has no qualms whatsoever about using his relationship to Brady for personal gain: "In Massachusetts, I’m at 48 percent [support]. You know why? Tom Brady said Trump’s the greatest. He says it to anyone who asks him. You know, it’s hard for a guy like him to say that. When you’re a football player, you don’t want to be taking sides in campaigns and having the Hillary [Clinton] people now say you’re not as good as Bart Starr. You understand. So Tom Brady is great."
Brady first found himself drawn into this entire Trump story back in September, when he had a "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker. Brady clearly underestimated the message that displaying such a hat would send, and tried to walk back his support of Trump soon afterward:
“A comment like that, I try to have fun with certain things,” Brady said. “But some things a lot of times they get taken out of context. So I think you are just more careful with what you say because you don’t want a big headline with you saying something that’s going to take the attention away from your teammates or what you’re trying to do.”
That's a classic tactic, blaming the media for reporting on the outrageous subject, not the outrageous subject himself. Thing is, Brady has no one to blame but Trump for dragging him into this: Trump not only uses a take-no-prisoners, with-me-or-against-me approach, he proudly trumpets his connection to Brady. So as much as Brady doesn't want to be a part of the story, Trump is happy to use him for Trump's own ends. Good luck untangling yourself from that, Tom.
PODCAST: Will Brady distance himself from Trump?: