Los Angeles (AFP) - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played down his friendship with President Donald Trump on Monday, a day after steering his team into a Super Bowl showdown with the Atlanta Falcons.
Brady, who is preparing for his seventh Super Bowl following the Patriots' 36-17 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday, told Boston's WEEI radio he was baffled by questions over his links to Trump.
"Why does everybody make such a big deal?" Brady told the "Kirk and Callahan" show. "I don't understand it."
Trump has been a staunch supporter of Brady throughout his career, defending the four-time Super Bowl winner over the "Deflategate" scandal which ended with the quarterback being suspended for the first four games of the season.
Brady, who in the past has been seen with one of Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" baseball caps, acknowledged he had been in regular contact with Trump over the years.
"I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call," Brady said.
"But, again, that's been someone I've known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He's been very supportive of me for a long time. It's just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people."
During last year's US presidential election, Trump claimed Brady had contacted him to let him know he had voted for him.
However Brady's wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele BÃ¼ndchen, later denied on Instagram that she and Brady supported Trump.
Brady on Monday said it was possible to remain friends with someone yet disagree with their views.
"I don't want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn't mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life," Brady said, adding that he hoped the issue would not distract from the Patriots' Super Bowl preparations.
"I just don't want to be a distraction for our team. There are too many guys that are working hard in one direction to help us win games to help us get to the point where we are now," Brady said.
Trump remains a polarizing figure in US sport. On Saturday San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lambasted the US leader for "misogynistic, xenophobic and racist" behaviour.