No date has been set yet for the New England Patriots Super Bowl visit to the White House, but at least six players have already announced that they will not attend and meet with President Donald Trump.
Tight end Martellus Bennett was the first to reveal he’s not attending and did so during his press conference after the Super Bowl. “It is what it is,” he said. “People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter.” Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower told ESPN, “Been there, done that,” referring to his White House visit with the championship Alabama team. Defensive tackle Alan Branch told Sirius XM Radio that he’s going to spend time with family, saying, “I’m going to just leave it at that.” Running back LeGarrette Blount revealed his decision on Fox Sports in a radio interview on “The Rich Eisen Show” saying, “I just don’t feel welcome in that house.” Defensive end Chris Long posted on Twitter that he “planned on skipping” in response to a column in The Daily News that urged him to skip. Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty, a team captain, told 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.”
Bennett and McCourty were previously in the news for their activism last fall when they raised their fists in protest during the national anthem for one game. Numerous players in the NFL were showing their support for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who was kneeling during the national anthem in protest of the racism, oppression, inequality and police brutality against black people and other minorities.
The number of players not attending could rise although the Patriots are actually the team with the closest association to Donald Trump. Quarterback Tom Brady displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker during the campaign and has spoken favorably of Trump noting they are friends. Trump claimed that he had the support of Brady and Coach Bill Belichick, also noting he received a supportive letter from Belichick. The team’s owner, Robert Kraft has said he considers Trump a long time friend.
The six players with the Patriots won’t be the first to skip the traditional White House visit. Numerous players have skipped the trip over the years including Brady who did not visit former President Barack Obama with the Patriots in 2015.