Winning the Super Bowl; it’s one of the highest achievements in all of American sports. This year’s game, Super Bowl 51, pitted the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots ended up winning in spectacular fashion, coming back from 25 points down to win in overtime. The overtime period was a first in Super Bowl history, and the Patriots won by a score of 34-28.
One of the perks that always comes from winning the Super Bowl is the annual White House Visit. The players and staff from the winning organization visit the president and present him with a jersey of the team, usually with the jersey number correlating to the number of the presidency. However, six players from the Patriots have already stated that they will not be in attendance at the meeting later in the year. The players are tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive back Devin McCourty, defensive tackle Alan Branch, defensive end Chris Long, running back LeGarrette Blount, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
This hasn’t exactly come as a surprise. Both Bennett and McCourty were seen at the beginning of the year holding their fists in the air during the National Anthem as a symbol of protest following Colin Kaepernick’s protest. These protests came as a result of the police brutality incidents last year, and the players beliefs that there is still racism in America today.
In an interview after the Super Bowl Bennett said, “I haven’t thought about it. I am not going to go.” He also mentioned that people know how he feels, and that he could elaborate later on in life.
McCourty apparently broke the news via text message to TIME magazine saying:
“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.”
Branch stated that he is going to “hang out with the family instead.” Hightower, who actually skipped the meeting in 2015, said he’s been there and done that. Long claimed on Twitter to have already planned on skipping but hadn’t yet been asked about it. Lastly, Blount said he didn’t feel welcome in the White House, similar to McCourty. It’s also worth noting that Long is the only one of the six players who isn’t African-American.
What’s so interesting about this is that this will be the first White House visit from a professional team during Trump’s presidency. Also, while there has certainly been some backlash already, some have forgotten that Tom Brady actually skipped the White House visit in 2015 after the Patriots victory in Super Bowl 49. Brady claimed he had a “family commitment” but was actually seen working out on April 23, the day of the visit. The main speculation was due to a White House comment in which they made a joke about “Deflategate;” the controversy in the 2015 NFL in which the Patriots were accused of purposely under-inflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady was however in attendance at the previous three White House visits in 2001, 2003, and 2004, all while George Bush was still in office. Other professional athletes who skipped the meeting during Obama’s presidency include Tim Thomas, of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk of the NFL. Thomas claimed to skip because he wasn’t a fan of President Obama, and Birk’s reason was because Obama praised Planned Parenthood.
Another interesting thing to look forward to from this is what will happen at future White House visits from professional teams in the NBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL. All of America’s professional sports feature a wide variety of races amongst their players, with a 2015 report stating that 74.4 percent of NBA players were African American, according to Richard Lapchick. Whether you support President Trump or not, he has clearly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with past and present comments, it will be riveting to see how athletes will interact with him during his four year presidency.
Story by Nick Fields