We know which date the New England Patriots will be visiting the White House, though some players won’t need to set a reminder on their calendar.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced on Thursday that the Patriots will visit President Donald Trump in the White House on April 19. A White House trip is one of the perks that goes to teams who win sports championships, but this trip seems a little different.
At least six players publicly stated they’d be skipping the White House visit in the days after New England’s Super Bowl LI win: tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch. Some have explicitly stated it is for political reasons, while others like Hightower claimed other reasons. Hightower said he had experienced a White House trip when he won a college national championship with Alabama and didn’t need to go again. And those players were just the ones who publicly stated in the week or so after the game they wouldn’t go; there’s no official count on how many Patriots players will choose to skip the trip.
While a main story of the April 19 visit will be which players won’t attend, the Patriots are the NFL team most closely affiliated with Trump. Quarterback Tom Brady has said he’s a friend of Trump’s and Trump has mentioned him prominently before and after the election. Coach Bill Belichick sent a congratulatory letter to Trump in the final days of his campaign. Owner Robert Kraft attended a campaign donor dinner with Trump shortly after he was elected and recently rode on Air Force One. Those are arguably the three most prominent members of the franchise, and each has publicly sided with Trump.
Trump tweeted his congratulations after the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Spicer, from Rhode Island, is also a Patriots fan and cracked a joke earlier this week about the stolen Brady Super Bowl jersey caper.
“I am very happy that the individual in the press corps who took Tom Brady’s jersey, that that has been returned properly,” Spicer said with a smile, according to the Boston Globe. “Another bad on the press, but we have righted that wrong.”
Most White House visits by championship teams are fairly forgettable. The players give the president a gift like a jersey with his name on it, the president tells a couple of jokes and talks about the incredible spirit of the team being honored and everyone goes home happy. Next month’s Patriots visit might be a little more noteworthy than most.
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