They may be friends, but New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is speaking out against President Donald Trump's comments regarding National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem.
Brady, who linked arms with his teammates in a display of unity ahead of the Patriots' match-up with the Houston Texans on Sunday, told WEEI's Kirk & Callahan that he disagreed with the president's "divisive" comments.
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive," Brady said on Monday. "Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, 'Oh, that is wrong. That is right.' I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust."
He also said he heard the boos from fans in Gillette Stadium as about 16 Patriots players participated in the protest during the anthem.
"I think everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do," Brady said. "If you don't agree, that is fine. You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It's part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about."
Brady has called Trump a "good friend" in the past and one of Trump's "Make America Great Again" hats was spotted in Brady's locker in 2015. Trump has often praised the quarterback on social media.
Brady skipped a White House visit with Trump in April when the team celebrated its fifth Super Bowl title.
Head coach Bill Belichick has also been publicly supportive of Trump, even writing him a letter that the then-president-elect called an endorsement.
On Monday, Belichick issued a statement supporting his players, but stopping short of criticizing Trump. He said he has spoken to his players but will be keeping those conversations private.
"I will do what I feel is best for the team in my role as head coach, and collectively we will work together to find the best way to proceed," he said.
About 200 NFL players either kneeled down, linked arms or protested in some form on Sunday, days after Trump's controversial speech in Alabama that called for NFL owners to fire those who "disrespect our flag."
Only about six players kneeled during "The Star-Spangled Banner" last week.
Kneeling during the national anthem is a practice that began last season with then San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick kneeling to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police. Kaepernick is now a free agent.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, another longtime friend of Trump, also spoke out over the weekend against the president's comments, saying he was "disappointed."
"Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful," he said in a statement on Sunday.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh both addressed the issue on Monday, saying the president should stay out of the matter and focus on more pressing issues.
Former Pats offensive lineman Matt Light, however, came to Trump's defense, saying during a radio appearance that he was "ashamed" of the Patriots who chose to protest by taking a knee.