Count President Donald Trump among NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's many critics.
In an interview with the New York Times' Mark Leibovich, Trump labeled Goodell as "weak" and "a dope."
"The commissioner is a weak guy," Trump said. "When he made the Ray Rice deal, everybody said: You're stupid. You're weak. And it was such a weak deal. So now he's going overboard with [New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady]. "The commissioner is a dope. He's a stupid guy."
Trump had better things to say about Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick, all of whom he considers friends.
The president said he and Belichick have a particularly strong bond.
"So I go to the Patriots game last year," Trump said. "I'm on the sidelines with Kraft. He's got [CBS chief executive officer] Les Moonves right here. He's got a lot of different people. And Belichick comes over in his Patriots sweatshirt and the hoodie and the whole thing. He hugs me, and he kisses me, and he said: 'I love you. You're the greatest.' He just feels warmly toward me, Belichick does. Isn't that the craziest thing?"
Regarding Brady's four-game suspension from the Deflategate scandal, Trump told Leibovich he instructed Brady to fight the punishment and sue the NFL for $500 million. Brady declined and accepted the suspension.
The Patriots' run to Super Bowl LI has drawn more attention to Trump's connection to Belichick, Brady and Kraft.
Belichick and Brady received questions regarding the president during Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday but declined to speak in depth about Trump and instead focused on Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, per For The Win's Adi Joseph.
The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern reported in October that Brady and Trump first crossed paths at the Miss USA pageant in March 2002, when Trump arranged to have Brady fly out to Gary, Indiana, for the event. Their rapport has strengthened since then.
In January 2015, Dan Scavino Jr., Trump's director of social media, shared a few photos of Trump and Brady golfing together:
Golf played a formative role in Kraft and Trump's friendship. Kraft told the New York Times' Ken Belson and Ben Shpigel that Trump invited him for a round of golf 20 years ago at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
In November, during his press conference before New England's Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Belichick remained vague about their friendship, saying it "goes back many years," per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. Belichick also confirmed he wrote a personal letter to Trump prior to the 2016 president election.