FOXBORO -- It was clear Wednesday morning Bill Belichick wanted to draw a distinction between dropping what he framed as a friendly note to Donald Trump and a full-on endorsement of the President-elect.
With a nip-it-in-the-bud approach that’s been effective for him in the past, Belichick fawned over the Seahawks then veered off to the Trump issue. This was going to be done on his terms.
- Belichick: Note to Trump was about friendship, not politics
- Brady hesitant, evasive when asked about Trump
- WATCH: Curran and Giardi discuss Belichick comments
And this wasn’t going to be a chin-out challenge to anyone to try and tear he and the Donald asunder. Belichick himself was the one that did the distancing when he stated that writing a letter “doesn’t mean I agree with every single thing that a person thinks about politics, religion or other subjects.”
Belichick also ran John Kerry’s name up the flagpole as being representative of his apolitical nature.
“I can’t imagine two people in political views more different than those two,” Belichick said. “To me, friendship and loyalty is just about that it’s not about political or religious views.”
It’s Belichick’s right to be neutral or partisan. It’s also his right to share his endorsement and vote or keep it private.
What muddies the water here is that Belichick seems to want it both ways. If Belichick not only gave Trump the OK to read his letter in New Hampshire but crafted a new one expressly for the occasion, it’s an endorsement.
And endorsing a candidate with as much ideological baggage as Trump brings on issues of religion, immigration, race and a record of being crass with women brings the very fair question, “Are you OK with all that as well, Bill?”
Belichick -- without parsing Trump’s stances -- attempted to give himself wiggle room and plausible deniability.
And one can’t blame him. Belichick’s philanthropy and social consciousness has been too good for too long to be undone dropped into the fire because of a friendship with Trump.
Former New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden wrote of Belichick in 2008 on the eve of Super Bowl 42:
If Bill Belichick can be judged by the company he keeps, then his relationships with Jim Brown, the legendary football player, and Bill Russell, the epitome of winning, provide an intriguing insight into a man few outsiders know.
The tie that binds them is an initiative that Brown began two decades ago when he founded his Amer-I-can Foundation, which works with gangs and youth throughout the United States to end violence by boosting self esteem, providing jobs and promoting self-worth and personal responsibility.
The link to Russell came through Brown and Belichick asked Russell to speak to the Patriots in 2007.
What Russell said surprised the team and Belichick. He spoke about compassion.
Shortly after that talk, Russell attended a Red Sox game in Boston and met Tedy Bruschi, the Patriots’ veteran linebacker.
Russell recalled Bruschi’s comments virtually word for word: “He said, ‘The one thing you said that you emphasized and I took it as part of my way of life is that you told the New England Patriots, who had just won a Super Bowl, to be kind to each other.’ He said, ‘You don’t know what impact that had: You’re telling this world champion football team -- as violent as this sport is -- to be kind to each other.’"
As of right now, people aren't going to wade through the nuance of Belichick's Trump affiliation. People are destined to readily remember where Belichick stood in the first week of November, 2016 rather than what he stood for in all the years before.