Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has received support from several unlikely groups – and now, it seems, he has one more in his corner: former professional athletes.
The New York real estate mogul has received endorsements from a number of well-known athletes in recent weeks, including Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker, all-pro NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens and NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. And another pro athlete, Matt Light, a former all-pro offensive tackle for the New England Patriots, appeared at a Trump fundraiser inNorwood, Massachusetts, on Friday.
Light told the Guardian: “I think he’s not a guy that’s afraid to say it like it is and that’s what most of the people in this country feel that we need.” He went on to praise Trump as “a guy that’s willing to stand up there and take all the heat and say what he thinks and say what means”.
The retired NFL player didn’t quite endorse the current Republican frontrunner’s views on immigration, but he did say: “I agree with the fact that we need to protect our borders. We need to protect people around our borders.” He added: “Do we need people to have clear ideas? Yes. And does Trump have those things? Sure.” Light went on to say: “I think what Trump represents is a very important thing.”
But Light isn’t the only member of the New England Patriots to whom Trump has ties.
The Republican candidate talks on the phone with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has spent the past few months with the “Deflategate” scandal hanging over him and who Trump calls a friend. The two even exchange notes as Trump revealed in a radio interview in late July. The billionaire gloried in this relationship at Friday’s fundraiser, telling reporters at a press conference that Brady “is a great friend of mine. I know Tom Brady. Tom Brady is an honest guy. He’s a great guy. He’s a great champion and winner.”
Trump’s relationship with pro sports goes back over 30 years to his tenure as owner of a pro football franchise, the New Jersey Generals, which played in the short-lived USFL. The league was founded as an alternative to the NFL that played its games in the spring. The league lasted only three seasons, and many people credit Trump for its failure.
The current Republican frontrunner pressed for the league to try to play games in the fall, head to head against the NFL and, if that failed, to sue the league under antitrust laws. With its teams facing growing debts and unable to suit up for games, the USFL ended up mounting a lawsuit that was ultimately unsuccessful (although they won on the merits, they were awarded only $3 in damages). As a result, the league folded.
Since then Trump, who was the captain of his high school baseball team, has considered buying at least one other pro sports team but has remained on the sidelines. However, the longtime Yankees fan has made friends with pro athletes on his home team. Upon the 2014 retirement of Yankees great Derek Jeter, Trump wrote on Facebook: “my friend Derek Jeter is a special athlete & special person –there is nobody like him.” But two years before, when Jeter broke his ankle several days after selling an apartment in a Trump-owned building, Trump immediately suggested on Twitter that it was karma:
Trump isn’t the only candidate to be supported by pro athletes in the 2016 Republican primary. Former Cleveland Browns quarterbackBrady Quinn endorsed Jeb Bush in August and, in a recent television appearance, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said he currently likes the Ohio governor, John Kasich.