Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump expressed his support for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose four-game "Deflategate" suspension was reinstated by a federal appeals court on Monday.
"Leave Tom Brady alone! He’s a great guy. Leave Tom Brady alone," Trump shouted at a campaing event at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Warwick, Rhode Island.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brady for his connection to deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game in January 2015.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman nullified Brady's suspension in September, a week before the season begun. The NFL then appealed the decision.
Trump has praised Brady, whom he considers a close friend, numerous times while on the campaign trail.
Brady told The Associated Press in October that Trump has "been a long-time friend of mine, so we played a lot of golf over the years. He's invited me many times to some of his great golf resorts. We've had a lot of fun together. We'll see what turns out with him as a politician, but he's certainly a great friend. Nobody supports their friends like Tom Brady or Donald Trump."
Brady also told a Boston radio show in December he supports Trump but did not endorse him for president.
"He's a good friend of mine... I support all my friends," Brady said, adding that he kept the "Make America Great Again" hat Trump gave him in his locker.
Trump on Monday also rallied against a deal reached by rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich to divvy up a series of upcoming contests to maximize their chances of halting Trump's march to the GOP nomination.
"It's collusion," Trump said of the deal, speaking at the Rhode Island rally, ahead of the state's primary on Tuesday.
"If you collude in business or if you collude in the stock market, they put you in jail. But in politics, because it's a rigged system, because it's a corrupt enterprise, in politics you're allowed to collude," he added.
But Trump said he's actually OK with the decision because it demonstrates his rivals' weakness.
"It shows how weak they are. It shows how pathetic they are," he said.
Kasich held a town hall event Saturday at Bryant University in Smithfield. Campaign managers for Cruz have said he isn't expected to hold any events in Rhode Island.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton campaigned Saturday at Central Falls High School, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held an outdoor rally at Roger Williams Park in Providence on Sunday.