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'Conflicted' Patriots fans donate to civil liberties group as protest against Trump

Fans pledged thousands of dollars to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood to offset Trump's stated admiration for the team.
Boston celebrated after the New England Patriots cinched Super Bowl LI. Derek Kouyoumjian / Metro

For some New England Patriots fans, rooting for their favorite team this season has come with some complications.

Just because they believe Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. — and he showed it in Sunday's Super Bowl victory — doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans approve of his friendship with President Donald Trump. It also doesn't mean they want to be associated with other Patriots supporters whose political views they do not share.

So to ensure their cheers came with a clear conscience, Pats fans donated thousands of dollars to service organizations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Islamic Relations for every touchdown or individual point the Patriots scored.

So far, fans have contributed more than $20,000 to good causes.

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Emma Sandoe, a doctoral student at Harvard, is one of those ambivalent fans.

Ahead of Super Bowl LI, she and her friend Josh Gondelman, a Bay State-born comedian and writer for HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," had an idea.

“He and I were talking about how we have so many conflicted feelings about the game, because of the political polarization happening with the Pats,” Sandoe said. “Then we agreed we should do something and he was thinking about donating. We came up with the hashtag … and just started tweeting about it.”

Using #AGoodGame, Sandoe and Gondelman spread the word. It quickly gained momentum, with popular accounts like Timothy Simons, who plays Jonah Ryan on "Veep," sharing their pledges.

“When [tweets] started coming in, it felt great because we thought, 'Oh, these are our friends who think this is great idea and are generous,'” Sandoe said. “Then all sorts of strangers started doing it, snowballing into something that really felt like a community and like everyone was getting involved.”

Sandoe has since been trying to add up the impact. She and Gondelman asked those who participated to send them screenshots of their donations.

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The tally reached more than $20,000 after just an hour of counting up receipts, she said.

“But I barely scratched the surface,” Sandoe said. She’s in the midst of making a spreadsheet with all the information.

Pats fans pledged to help a variety of organizations, including the ACLU, both its national office and Massachusetts chapter, The Center for American Islamic Relations, Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center and their local domestic violence shelters.

It wasn’t all about money; fans pledged to volunteer their time or make calls to their representatives, as well.

Before kickoff, Trump picked the Patriots to win — a move that sparked reservations for some fans and fears that he “jinxed” their team for others. Patriots tight end Martellus Bennetthasalready saidthat hewon't visit the White House to celebrate his team's win with Trump.

Brady isn't the only Patriots friend of the president. Patriots owner Robert Kraftsaid he received weekly calls from Trumpin the wake of his wife's death in 2011.

Trump watched the Super Bowl from the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, but reportedlybowed out earlywhen the Pats were still behind. The team's epic rally began in the fourth quarter.

“Hopefully it's an apt metaphor for our country that even though President Trump left his own Super Bowl party in the third quarter, hundreds of people stuck with their team and their principles for what turned out to be both #AGoodGame and a legitimately good game,” Gondelman said in an emailed statement.

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In the midsts of the game, Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist group, National Policy Institute, and a Boston native, tweeted that he was rooting for the Pats because they are "consistently NFL's whitest team." Spencer recently gained attention after he was punched in the face during an interview on Inauguration Day.

While Spencer's support spurred some to distance themselves from the Patriots, it inspired others to donate more. When asked if she hopes this campaign changes the country's (negative) perception of Pats fans, Sandoe had to laugh a little.

"I certainly hope that more people realize that Boston is a very diverse place," she said.

 
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