The New England Patriots will be the first championship team to visit the White House since President Donald Trump took office. The biggest story from the trip might be which players aren’t there.
When Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett said he wouldn’t go to the White House right after Super Bowl LI ended, you knew he wouldn’t be the only one. Safety Devin McCourty joined him, saying “I don’t feel accepted in the White House.”
We’re less than a week removed from the Super Bowl and we know of six Patriots players who won’t visit the White House. That’s more than 10 percent of the roster, and there could be more. The first six are just the ones who have shared their feelings publicly already.
Running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch have joined Bennett and McCourty in saying they won’t go to visit Trump in the White House.
“I will not be going to the White House,” Blount told “The Rich Eisen Show,” via the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t feel welcome in that house. I’ll leave it at that.”
Oh Chuck. Planned on skipping, hadn't been asked. Don't need an open letter explaining my own words to me. Not *joining* anyone. My call. https://t.co/XWo9x2XT40
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) February 9, 2017
SINCERELY- thank you for your service. Thanks for the freedom that gave me this decision. But where were you when POTUS disrespects y'all? https://t.co/2wigX2D9uX
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) February 10, 2017
Not all the absences will necessarily be political boycotts. Hightower said “Been there, done that” about a White House visit. He went there when Alabama won a national championship, and he didn’t go two years ago when Barack Obama was in office according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Branch said he wanted to spend time with his four children, according to The Hill. It’s also nothing new for a player on a championship team to skip the traditional White House visit. Tom Brady didn’t go two years ago, citing a prior family commitment.
But because this is a new president and some players have spoken out against his politics, it makes for an interesting dynamic. Who does and doesn’t visit the White House among all championship teams over the next four years will be a recurring story. We’ll also see if players feel pressured to skip the visit, especially once their teammates decide to boycott.
It’s especially intriguing with the Patriots because three of their most visible figures are Trump supporters. Brady has said he’s friends with Trump. Coach Bill Belichick sent Trump a letter supporting him during his campaign. Owner Robert Kraft attended Trump’s campaign donor dinner before his inauguration. No pro sports team is more closely tied to Trump than the Patriots.
What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
It will be worth watching if there’s a public reaction from Trump over the players who are skipping the visit. The Twitter account @RoguePOTUSStaff, which claims to be from within the White House and has a following of 750,000, said Trump was “irritated” at players saying they’d skip the visit and “he will lobby owner to cut them from the team.” That’s not verified obviously, but Trump has reacted to many other slights publicly and we’ll see if he eventually speaks out against the Patriots who are skipping out on seeing him.
The annual White House visit for championship teams has gone on for decades, and mostly the visits are uneventful. The Patriots’ trip to see Trump could be a must-see moment.
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