Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan — a boisterous presence never known as the sort of person to bite his tongue or shy away from confrontation — is set to trudge into the morass of the 2016 election season. Ryan said he'll introduce controversial Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at a Buffalo rally Monday night, one day before the New York state primary.
When asked during a press conference about the rumors that he would introduce Trump, Ryan confirmed the news but stopped short of a full endorsement, in what appeared to be an attempt to sidestep any political trip wires. Instead, Ryan, known to have a prodding sense of humor, made a joke referencing his weight loss and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican candidate who dropped out and then lent his support to the front-running New York City billionaire.
"I'm going to introduce [Trump], that's a true statement," Ryan said. "But I'm not going to say who my endorsement is and all that stuff. I will say this, Chris Christie was my guy 100 percent because we were the lap band of brothers. We both had that lap band, and we are really pretty close."
Rex stopped short of endorsing Trump. "Chris Christie was my guy 100% because were lap band bothers." But he confirmed he's introducing him.
— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) April 18, 2016
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 18, 2016
The rally is scheduled to take place at Buffalo's First Niagara Center on Monday, with doors opening at 4 p.m. EDT and the event starting at 7 p.m. EDT. You can watch rally live streams by clicking here or here, or watching below.
Some of Trump's stances — like a call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration — and his controversial comments — like calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals — have angered large portions of the population. Trump's rallies have been subject to frequent protests, including some carried out by Black Lives Matter activists, who have frequently been met with violence.
Ryan could be wading into questionable waters as the visible head of a franchise in the U.S.' most popular sport. Sixty-five percent of respondents gave Trump a negative favorability rating in a recent poll, bestowing upon him a net favorability of -41, the lowest figure ever for a major presidential candidate, according to NBC. He leads the GOP race, however, by about 200 delegates over second-place Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Buffalo rally comes ahead of New York's primary vote Tuesday. Trump leads comfortably in the state, garnering 53.1 percent support, trailed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (22.8 percent) and Cruz (18.1 percent), according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) April 18, 2016
Ryan is not the first major NFL figure to be linked to Trump. Two key figures from the New England Patriots — quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft — have also been connected to Trump (although neither has officially endorsed him). And before the confirmation of Ryan's introduction, Trump had a connection to the NFL's Buffalo franchise. The Associated Press reported he attempted to buy the Bills in 2014, saying he put in a $1 billion bid — though other reports were pegged at far less — but was outbid, and might have faced opposition from the league's owners, who would have had to approve the sale.
"If I bought that team, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing," Trump told the AP in February, referring to his campaign.