President Donald Trump welcomed the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to the White House on Wednesday and it went as these things usually do. The president delivered some remarks, coach Bill Belichick issued some words of his own and a lot of pictures were taken on the South Lawn.
The main difference between this year’s proceedings and when the Patriots last did this just two years ago? As the New York Times’ Sports Twitter points out, then-president Barack Obama drew a bigger crowd for his photo-op.
By our count, 119 members of the Patriots organization posed on the steps with Obama in 2015 while just 1.5 million 52 posed with Trump on Wednesday.
The reason? A lot fewer players showed up in 2017 while the Patriots said they did not include support staff in the most recent photo.
I don’t know about you, but something about this story feels a little familiar.
Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal counted 34 absences from the Patriots roster and all had their own reasons for not being there. Some players previously said they wouldn’t attend for political reasons. Tom Brady was a no-show (as he was in 2015) citing “personal matters” but said he hoped to be back on the South Lawn for a future championship. Conflicting offseason plans from other players and coaches surely played a role. Trump curiously seemed to avoid mentioning players who were absent, including Brady.
The Patriots were apparently sensitive about the photos, because they took to Twitter to explain the situation.
These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn. https://t.co/iIYtV0hR6Y
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017
Around 50 players made the trip to see Obama in 2015. As the NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones pointed out, the Patriots winning the title two times in three years may have also played a role in 2017’s smaller crowd. The 2004 team had 36 players attend while just 27 showed up in 2005 for the team’s third trip in five seasons.
The true Trump effect when it comes to championship attendance may not be known until the next NFL champion is invited.
Assuming it’s not the Patriots again, of course.
UPDATE: The New York Times passed along this statement from sports editor Jason Stallman after the paper received criticism for the comparison that quickly went viral.
Bad Tweet by me. Terrible Tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time. Once we learned more we tried to fix everything as much as possible as swiftly as possible and as transparently as possible. Of course, at that point the damage was done. I just needed to own it.”
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