Some Patriots Players Turn Down Visit to Trump’s White House
by Caroline McCarthy on Friday, February 24th, 2017
Athletes have been visiting the White House for as long as we can remember: the custom following championship games has transformed from a rare occurrence into an anticipated tradition. What has recently grown into a more trending topic is the number of athletes who have made the decision to skip the potentially once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the Commander-in-Chief.
According to a March 2016 ESPN article, the tradition of sports victors visiting the White House can be traced back to August 30, 1865 when the 17th U.S. president, Andrew Johnson, invited 2 amateur baseball clubs to tour the nation’s capital; teams — college and professional alike — have made the trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave ever since. The first official NFL appearance, however, was only in 1980 when Jimmy Carter housed the Steelers following their Super Bowl XIV win.
While the Patriots, as the winners of Super Bowl LI, are now scheduled to tour the White House, players Alan Branch, Chris Long, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Legarrette Blount and tight end Martellus Bennett have already have opted out, mainly for political reasons.
It is not the first time professional athletes have abandoned the chance to tour the president’s residence. The list of those not in attendance includes: Larry Bird, who, in 1984, told a reporter that the President “knew where to find him,” former Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas, and legend Michael Jordan who took a rain check just to play some golf. Even Tom Brady, who visited President George Bush in 2005, chose to skip meeting the Obamas in 2015 for “family reasons,” despite a photo that circulated the internet of the MVP buying an Apple watch in New York that same day. However, with the undeniable controversy surrounding Trump’s presidency, fans can expect to see more honest, direct, and politically based reasons for the players’ choices to attend or skip.
While discussing, on the Rich Eisen Show, his decision to avoid meeting the President, Legarrette Blount voiced his discomfort with meeting the newly elected Donald Trump. “I don’t feel welcome in that house. I’ll leave it at that,” the running back blatantly noted.
In a response to TIME magazine, Devin McCourty conveyed a similar tone of uneasiness when he stated: “I’m not going to the White House. 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.”
With the increasing tension around this year’s visit, fans await Brady’s decision. According to Sports Illustrated, Brady has been friends with Trump for nearly 16 years: the quarterback even called Trump to congratulate him on his inauguration. The two occasionally golf together and Brady even judged the miss USA beauty pageant as a favor for Trump in 2002. After Trump took to Twitter to congratulate coach Bill Belichick, owner Robert Kraft, and Brady on a comeback win, many directly associate the Patriots’ franchise with the President, despite the discomfort many players have openly expressed. In fact, many people now dislike the Patriots due to their connection with Trump.
In an interview with Kirk and Callahan on local radio station WEEI, on his relationship with the president, Brady questioned the swarming interest around his ties to Trump. “Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it,” the quarterback exclaimed. While Brady has said little about the visit itself, his decision carries a heavy weight. Not only will he be scrutinized by the public for either denying or accepting the proposal, but he also risks distancing himself from his teammates.
As fans take to Twitter either ridiculing players for avoiding the meeting or encouraging players such as Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola to join the 6 who won’t attend, the once celebratory event has become a divisive matter as the world of politics collides with that of sports, potentially altering the significance of the tradition forever.
With the upcoming NBA championship and many players and head coaches, such as the Warriors’ Steve Kerr and Raptors’ Dwane Casey, extremely vocal on social media and in interviews about their opposition to the controversial election of Donald Trump, basketball fans can expect that an event similar to the Patriots’ boycotting could unfold.
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