SB Nation— The Clinton-Kaine signs were still up on the afternoon of December 24, sagging in the snow like tombstones of hope. They flashed by the windows as I drove through my hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts, where 77.7 percent of residents voted for Hillary Clinton. Hanging off porches behind some of the Clinton signs were New England Patriots flags.
For over a decade now, people outside of New England have reviled the Patriots for turning winning into a science and, many believe, cheating to do so. Pats fans doubled-down in response, and a fierce loyalty took root in Massachusetts that, through the sagas of Spygate and Deflategate, seemed unshakeable.
But recently, that blind faith has faced its greatest test in the form of the team’s connection to Republican president-elect Donald Trump.
The trouble began when Patriots reporters spotted Brady with a Make America Great Again hat in his locker in Foxboro in the fall of 2015 (feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?), soon after Trump announced his candidacy and called Mexicans rapists in the same speech. Over the past year and a half, the team’s ties to Trump have only grown stronger.
…I was at a neighborhood holiday party in Lincoln a few days before Christmas, talking to the parents of several friends I grew up with. They asked about my job, so the conversation turned to sports. And then, naturally, to the Patriots. And then, naturally, to Trump.
“Oh, Susan Pease won’t even watch anymore,” one of my friend’s moms said. “She used to watch every Sunday with her family, and now she just can’t do it.”
I called Pease a few days later to ask her if this was true.
“Yeah, I just will not watch,” she said. “I really enjoy watching the game with my family. I like what it means for my family to sit down and talk and laugh and watch and snack and now … I just, it’s just ruined for me. It’s not the worst thing about this, of course — this whole thing stems from my tremendous disappointment over this election and country. But it will forever color my opinion of the team. I will not watch, I will not buy any more jerseys. I’m done.”
Over the course of reporting this story, I’ve received countless emails and Facebook messages from people in Massachusetts telling me how disappointed they are in their team. Writing those letters almost seemed like catharsis for many: Several ended with sentiments along the lines of “it feels so good to get this off my chest,” and “I’ve been thinking about this so much.”
Some of these notes I got were filled with anger. People wrote things like “fuck Brady,” and “I used to think Belichick was a genius and now I hate him,” and “I actually take delight when they lose.” Pease isn’t alone — at least six other people told me they can’t bear to watch Pats games anymore, either. A few told me that they were looking for a reason to give football up already because they find the NFL immoral and what it does to men’s bodies indefensible. Trump was the final straw that eliminated any feelings of loyalty.
Is Wilder trying to argue Patriots fans have stopped watching games or denounced the team because it has a connection to Trump? If so, she uses this to make her case: at least SIX people said they stopped watching games, PLUS Susan Pease, so that’s at least seven.
Also, she doesn’t mention any of the names of these six people who contacted her about not watching the games. So her sources are unconvincing.
If you’ve talked to so many people, why not include that in the story and maybe name some of them?
Her argument is weak also because, as Kirk Minihane mentioned, she has no substantial proof to back up her claims the Patriots have a Trump problem.
Wilder says the problem is here: It’s hard to have a conversation about the Patriots without talking about Trump anymore. The connection reverberates far beyond the place I grew up.
OK, so what are some of those conversations that reverberate far beyond Massachusetts?
Because from what I’ve seen it is not hard to have a conversation about the Patriots without talking about Trump. It’s actually pretty easy. I have heard and been a part of many, many, many conversations about the Patriots that have nothing to do with Trump. I hadn’t heard any conversations about the Patriots and Trump for a while until this thing was published.
No matter how anyone feels about the team or the president-elect, the two have become as woven into each other’s histories as Trump’s hair is to his head. The difference is that while the rest of the country doesn’t really have a stake in this connection, Patriots fans in liberal Massachusetts who find Trump abhorrent have to grapple with the emotional implications.
This is how Wilder concludes her piece. Are Patriots fans grappling with emotions because some people involved with their favorite football team support Trump? Not at all from what I have seen. And when I think of the history of the Patriots, one of the last things I think of is Donald Trump. And the history of Donald Trump is going to be full of a lot more important things than his connection to the Patriots. This is a little dramatic.
What are we supposed to take away from this? I honestly have no idea. If she had named a few sources or cited some data showing this is a real problem and people have stopped watching games or supporting the team, then she might have a story here. But this is pretty weak.