Leadership

How Donald Trump inspired two Patriots fans to champion a charitable hashtag during the Super Bowl

President Donald Trump holds a New England Patriots helmet as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, and Patriots player Julian Edelman, rear, look on during a ceremony at the White House in Washington D.C. on Apr. 19,. 2017.
John Tlumacki | Getty Images
President Donald Trump holds a New England Patriots helmet as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, and Patriots player Julian Edelman, rear, look on during a ceremony at the White House in Washington D.C. on Apr. 19,. 2017.

Harvard PhD candidate Emma Sandoe and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" writer Josh Gondelman are two New England Patriots fans who first became friends over Twitter. While bonding over Boston-related topics, they exchanged tweets about certain conflicting feelings: Both wanted their favorite team to win in the 2017 Super Bowl, but also disliked the ties some members of the Patriots had with President Donald Trump at the time.

Through the hashtag "#AGoodGame," the two fans encouraged people to pledge money to a charity of their choice whenever the Patriots scored. By the end of the 2017 Super Bowl, over 1,000 people committed to donating more than $100,000 to various causes.

For today's Super Bowl, people are returning to the challenge.

"We were brainstorming about a way to do something effective and donating to organizations that help people hurt by policies we oppose felt right," Sandoe tells CNBC Make It. "I consider it an opportunity to root for a team I love and do good for the world."

Gondelman's #AGoodGame pledge in 2017, for example, involved donating $100 for every touchdown and $50 for every field goal the Patriots scored, the total of which he donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In addition to the hashtag, Sandoe, 32, and Gondelman, 33, recently launched AGoodGameDonation.com. Unlike the spreadsheet they used to tally donations last year, the website provides an organized (and optional) way for participants to declare pledges as well as provide charity recommendations, including a list of organizations that football player Colin Kaepernick recently pledged $1 million to support.

"It was exciting that people jumped on board. In part, it was validating that other people had the same sports and political anxiety we had, but mostly it was really lovely to watch people be so enthusiastic about donating to good causes," Gondelman says.

At first, Gondelman and Sandoe considered boycotting the Super Bowl, despite the Patriots' placement in the game because of the ties to Trump. Notably, quarterback Tom Brady has long been friendly with the president. Brady told CNBC in 2016 that Trump sent him a "Make America Great Again" hat when he entered the race, but wouldn't say whether he was supporting him in the 2016 election. However, prior to that, Brady said it'd be "great" if Trump won the election, according to CNN. Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sent Trump a letter congratulating him on a "on a tremendous campaign," according to NBC Sports.

With "#AGoodGame," Gondelman says his goal was "to see if there were other people who felt kind of a queasy ambivalence about the politics of the league and the Patriots specifically, and to harness that feeling into doing something positive."

Sandoe and Gondelman say they hope "#AGoodGame" carries on for years to come.

"The Super Bowl is an occasion that's really associated with abundance — lots of snacks, parties, spectacle — and so it would be great if there were also some kind of tradition of generosity attached to it as well," Gondelman says.

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