New England Patriots Player’s Skipped White House Visit
The 2017 Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots made the customary ritual White House visit on Wednesday.
During a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, President Trump singled out several members of the Patriots team , asking them to raise a hand or step forward for acknowledgment. However, several of the champs he mentioned weren’t present… including their star quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Danny Amendola.
The customary White House visit for sports the champions had become overshadowed with a cloud of resistance and hesitancy since Trump was elected. Many athletes said they would reject an invitation for political reasons.
The issue was stark on Wednesday, when a relatively small contingent of Patriots players and team personnel flanked the president.
A Patriots spokesman, Stacey James, said that 34 players had attended, similar to the turnout when President George W. Bush hosted them in 2004 and 2005. He said that more than 45 players attended the ceremonies in 2002, after the franchise’s first Super Bowl, and 2015, when Barack Obama was president.
The White House did not immediately respond to an email inquiring about the turnout.
The visit came the same day that a former Patriot, Aaron Hernandez, hanged himself in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for murder. Read more here
Players who didn’t attend White House Visit:
Martellus Bennett – The tight end – who’s now a member of the Green Bay Packers – said before the Super Bowl was even played that he’d probably opt out. “Most likely not, because I don’t support the person in it,” Bennett told The Detroit Free Press. Bennett, who had five catches for 62 yards in the Super Bowl, has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Devin McCourty – In a recent Green Stripe News video, McCourty, a defensive back, said he decided he wasn’t going “before we even won the game.” In February, he told Time it was a personal choice. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” said McCourty, who had four tackles in Super Bowl LI. “With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Chris Long – Long, a defensive end who’s now with the Philadelphia Eagles, also decided not to attend. “[When] my son grows up – and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is – I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey dad, why’d you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?’” Long said in the Green Stripe News video. Long is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.
LaGarrette Blount – The running back, who had 11 carries for 31 yards in Super Bowl LI, said in a February radio interview that “I just don’t feel welcome into that house. I’m just gonna leave it at that.”
Don’t’a Hightower – A linebacker with two tackles in Super Bowl LI, Hightower said he was skipping the visit with Trump because he’s “been there, done that,” ESPN reported. Hightower had previously been to the White House with his Alabama college squad and also didn’t go to D.C. in 2014 after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX – when Obama was in office.
Alan Branch – A defensive tackle who recorded half a sack in the Super Bowl, Branch said his absence was a result of the October release of a hot mic video showing Trump making lewd comments. “I have three daughters,” Branch told The Boston Globe. “I wouldn’t spend time away from my family to shake the hand of a guy I wouldn’t want to meet with or talk to.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft – who supported Trump – said of the players who weren’t planning to go: “This is America. We’re all free to do whatever’s best for us.” He also said players skipping the ceremony was not an unusual occurrence.