President Trump sounds off on college football, the NBA, and why Bill Belichick would make a good military general

The Boston Globe
President Donald Trump honored Bill Belichick and the Patriots at the White House after they won Super Bowl LI.

President Donald Trump, in a discussion with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday, spoke highly of Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s abilities — to the extent that he thinks Belichick would be able to translate his prowess from the football field to the military.

“If I ever had a military battle, I’d call Belichick up and say, ‘What do you think, what do you think? Give me a couple of ideas,‘ ” Trump said. “He’d be as good as any general out there.”

Belichick and Trump are known to be friendly. The president has name-dropped the coach a number of times. After the election in 2016, Trump read a letter he said was written by Belichick to a crowd in New Hampshire. In the letter, Belichick congratulated Trump on his campaign, saying, “You have dealt with an unbelievable, slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully” and that he has “always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable.”

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Belichick was also added to the Council on Sport, Fitness, and Nutrition by President Trump.

Tuesday’s comments about Belichick came in the wake of a number of sports-related utterances from Trump as the college football world continues to unravel, with some Power 5 conferences reportedly intending to delay or cancel the season because of the risk athletes would face.

On Monday, he threw support behind the #WeWantToPlay initiative spawned by athletes who are advocating for universal health and safety protocols and promised eligibility if they choose to opt out.

Later in the day he doubled down, tweeting “Play College Football!”

On Tuesday morning, Trump appeared on a Fox Sports Radio show hosted by Clay Travis, a sports pundit who, on social media, pushes forth mostly unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus is a hoax, or not as severe as it is reported.

Travis brought up the college football conundrum, prompting Trump to say that, with the exception of “a couple of offensive linemen,” that players’ strength and lack of body fat will protect them from getting severely sick.

“They’re not going to have a problem,” Trump told Travis.

The back-and-forth between the Power 5 conferences and their players hinges on new information that suggests players will be at risk for myocartis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and that at least five Big Ten athletes are already showing signs of the ailment.

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Myocartis is the same complication that shut down Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez for the season earlier this month.

Beyond the coronavirus pandemic, Trump trotted out his well-used criticism of athletes who kneel during the national anthem before games.

The president told Travis that he’d prefer the NFL not play if players “don’t stand for the national anthem.”

But he took his sharpest aim at the NBA, saying there is a “nastiness” surrounding the league’s restart in Orlando. The NBA has built in a number of smaller changes, like customized jerseys with activist statements on the back, and kneeling en masse during the national anthem. Many players, including the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, are using their platforms with the media to advocate for systemic change for Black people in the US.

Star players like LeBron James have responded to Trump’s complaints about the NBA in the past. Last week, James dismissed a Trump rant about the kneeling, saying the NBA doesn’t care what the president thinks.

“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership,” James said. “The game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball, we could [not] care less.”

Trump shot back a response on Tuesday, saying that his critics are “very, very nasty and frankly, very dumb.”

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