One of Donald Trump’s most high-profile supporters has skipped a visit to the White House, announcing that he would not accompany the rest of his Super Bowl-winning team mates due to family reasons.
The tradition of the champion American Football team being received at the White House dates back over 35 years, with the first team invited being the Pittsburgh Steelers, who joined the World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates in a dual ceremony with Jimmy Carter, held in February 1980.
And Tom Brady, one of America’s most recognisable sports figures, who in February captained the New England Patriots to a fifth title, had been expected to be in Washington with the rest of the squad.
Six other players had previously announced that they were boycotting the visit, in objection to Mr Trump’s presidency. But Brady, 39, was well known as a friend of Mr Trump’s and a supporter of his candidacy, and was due to attend.
Brady displayed a “Make America Great Again” cap in his locker during the campaign and at a rally in New Hampshire just before the election, Mr Trump quoted Brady on stage.
The sportsman never explicitly endorsed Mr Trump, however, and his wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, denied they supported the Republican candidate.
And his absence is likely to infuriate reality TV star Mr Trump, who struggled to find celebrities to perform at his inauguration and had no high-profile endorsements for his candidacy.
Brady’s mother is believed to be in his hometown of Boston, and recovering from an illness.
In a statement, Brady thanked Mr Trump for hosting the reception.
“In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today's ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters,” he explained.
“Hopefully, if we accomplish the goal of winning a championship in the future years, we will back on the South Lawn again soon. Have a great day!"
It is not, however, the first time Brady missed the team’s trip to the White House. He also had to attend a previous family commitment following their Super Bowl win two years ago.
The other six players not to attend avoided the ceremony predominately for reasons of political protest.
LeGarrette Blount said in a radio interview: “I just don’t feel welcome in that house.”
Devin McCourty, a team captain, agreed, telling Time magazine: “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Martellus Bennett, who joked that he might move to outer space if Mr Trump was elected, said: “It is what it is. People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter.”
Chris Long also boycotted the ceremony while Alan Branch, like Brady, said he planned to spend time with family instead.
Dont’a Hightower told ESPN, “Been there, done that,” having visited with a championship Alabama team.