The New England Patriots may have recently surpassed the Dallas Cowboys as the most hated team in the NFL — at least according to Public Policy Polling — but in at least one corner of the U.S., they could still carry some influence in politics, especially in the field of Republican presidential hopefuls.
Heading into the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, some GOP candidates have been quick to play up their Patriots bona fides. Ohio Gov. John Kasich reportedly brought former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel to a town hall meeting in the state.
Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — who finished a promising third in the Iowa caucuses last week and wants to build momentum in the Granite State — backtracked from his comment last year that New England quarterback Tom Brady should be suspended “as many [games] as possible” in the so-called “Deflategate” scandal, saying now he’d give the four-time Super Bowl champion a job in his cabinet if elected. Coach Bill Belichick, too.
But according to at least one political reporter, New England disgust over the Deflategate saga should benefit one candidate above all others: Donald Trump.
Sure, Trump has repeatedly played up his personal friendship with Brady while on the campaign trail, but the undercurrent of support for the blunt-speaking business tycoon goes deeper than just being the result of a celebrity endorsement.
“New Hampshire voters are angry. They believe a corrupt and power-hungry band of millionaire and billionaire families are running America into the ground, led by a coddled, vindictive, and dictatorial leader who doesn’t share their values and won’t help them win again,” political writer Tim Murphy wrote in a post for the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones, adding, “Deflategate started as a sports story, but it’s spiraled into something bigger — a story about a group of Americans who are sick and tired of a powerful and corrupt cabal picking winners and losers.”
For background, after the Patriots won the conference championship game last year, the NFL launched an investigation into whether team representatives intentionally deflated footballs during that contest, which could have arguably helped players grip the balls better in bad weather. After a $2.5-million, third-party study into the matter found that it was “more probable than not” that Brady “was at least generally aware” that the balls had been deflated, the league severely punished the team and quarterback.
Brady took the league to court in a case that’s ongoing, and New England fans have been livid ever since about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s apparent heavy handedness in the affair, as well as what they considered a double standard in the way Brady was treated compared to other players accused of rules violations over the years.
Simply put, Murphy wrote that some government weary New Englanders see political establishment sorts like Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush the same way they see Goodell: Big shots who control the money and get to change the rules when it fits them.
To many in New Hampshire — and in Maine, where caucuses will be held next month — Trump is playing the Tom Brady role. Sure, both Trump and Brady are too enviously successful to be considered underdogs, but they’re taking on the establishment nonetheless.
Wells resident Jerry Elwell told Murphy, for example, he lumped Goodell and current Democratic President Barack Obama together as “not very honorable.”
“I look at Trump the other way — very honorable,” he said.