With the New England Patriots headed for the Super Bowl once again, star quarterback Tom Brady could face renewed scrutiny over his controversial friendship with President Donald Trump.
During his campaign, Trump frequently boasted about his relationship with Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. But as criticism of Trump and his contentious comments and policies grew over the past couple years, Brady has increasingly sought to distance himself from the president — a step back that was reportedly a “disappointment” for Trump.
Here are all the key statements Brady has made about his friendship with Trump since he launched his bid for president.
September 2015: Brady voices support for a Trump presidency
After a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he told reporters that it would be “great” if then-candidate Trump became president, because then “there would be a putting green on the White House lawn.”
December 2015: Brady praises Trump’s “remarkable” path to the White House
Asked about Trump’s candidacy during a radio interview with Boston’s WEEI, Brady said he wanted to “stay out of this debate.” But that didn’t stop the Patriots star from praising Trump’s unique career path.
“I support all my friends in everything they do. I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life,” Brady said of Trump at the time. “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.”
Brady added that “if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do.”
October 2016: Brady says he considers Trump a friend
As the November 2016 election grew closer, however, Brady began to dodge questions about Trump, telling reporters that his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, had asked him to stop speaking publicly about politics.
Brady bolted from an October 2016 press conference after he was asked about Trump’s leaked Access Hollywood tape from 2005, in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.
In a subsequent interview with WEEI, Brady said he left the press conference in an effort to avoid headlines.
“I’ve been in an organization where we’re taught to say very little,” he explained. “The thing I’ve always thought is, ‘I don’t want to be a distraction for the team.’ That’s what my goal is.”
Though he still declined to comment on the leaked tape, Brady told WEEI at the time that he considered Trump a friend.
“I met him probably 15, 16 years ago,” said Brady, who was hired by Trump’s organization to judge the 2002 Miss USA pageant. “We’ve played golf together many, many times and I’ve always had a good time with him. He’s been a friend of mine.”
November 2016: Trump claims he’s got Brady’s vote — but Brady’s wife pushes back
At a rally on the eve of the election, Trump claimed that Brady was voting for him for president. But shortly afterward, a fan asked Bündchen in a comment on one of her Instagram posts, “Gisele, I heard you and Tom were backing Trump! Is that true?”
She replied with an emphatic, “No!”
Brady later dodged questions about who he voted for, CBS Sports reported at the time.
February 2017: Brady declines to comment on the president’s immigration policy
During last year’s Super Bowl, Brady repeatedly evaded questions about Trump’s controversial policies, including his widely panned executive order temporarily banning immigration and heavily restricting travel from seven Muslim–majority countries, according to Sports Illustrated.
All eyes were on Brady to see if he would join his Super Bowl LI champ-teammates when the Patriots visited the White House in April at the president’s invitation.
Although Brady was expected to make the trip to Washington, D.C., he announced at the last minute that he would not be attending due to “personal family matters.”
“In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today’s ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters,” Brady said at the time in a statement to Sports Illustrated.
It’s unclear why Brady skipped the event. Some speculated that it was to be with his mother, who was battling cancer at the time, while others believed it was related to the suicide of former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who hanged himself in his prison cell earlier that same day.
September 2017: Brady breaks his silence on Trump and the NFL protests
During a Sept. 25 interview on the Boston sports radio show Kirk & Callahan, Brady criticized the president’s comments calling on the NFL to fire players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive,” Brady said. “Like I said, I just want to support my teammates.”
“I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in,” he continued. “I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me.”
Brady’s comments marked the first time he spoke out publicly about the protests. Just before that interview, Brady showed solidarity with his Patriots teammates who linked arms and kneeled during the playing of the national anthem at a Sept. 24 game. The quarterback chose to link arms with a teammate, while placing his other hand over his heart.
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December 2017: Trump “expresses disappointment” in Brady
A New York Times article exploring Trump’s “battle for self-preservation” claimed he had expressed “disappointment” that Brady had “distanced himself” from the president.