“Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” McCourty wrote in a text message to Time’s Sean Gregory. “With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Bennett, who, like McCourty, is African American, joined in the national anthem protests during the 2016 season.
Bennett told members of the media last week that he would skip the trip “because I don’t support the guy that’s in the house.” He repeated his stance after the possibility of a visit became reality Sunday night.
“It is what it is. People know how I feel about it,” Bennett said. “Just follow me on Twitter.”
Bennett said he is “not worried” that his feeling is in contrast to that of the team’s owner, quarterback and coach. Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have all said they are friends of the president, who was thrilled by the team’s overtime win. Brady skipped the Patriots’ 2015 trip to the White House, although he said the reason was a schedule conflict.
McCourty and Bennett are the latest high-profile athletes to protest Trump’s election. LeBron James has refused to stay at a Trump-branded hotel when the Cleveland Cavs played the Knicks in New York in December and the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzles also have chosen to stay in other hotels. Iman Shumpert, a teammate of James’s, would consider skipping a White House visit, but added, “we’ll have to cross that road if we get there.”
NBA coaches have by far been the most outspoken critics of the president, with Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy speaking out. Popovich, an Air Force Academy graduate, and Kerr, whose father was killed by terrorists, offering the strongest takes. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has urged players to think about the issue.
“To me, if a player were to choose not to go to the White House, whether they were choosing not to go to the current White House or a future White House, my response would be: ‘That’s a lost opportunity,’ ” Silver said last month. “Because that’s an opportunity that most citizens who have a political point of view would kill for — the opportunity to directly tell the president of the United States how they feel about an issue.
“Now, if the president were to say, ‘I have no interest in what members of the NBA think about an issue,’ that might surprise me and I might have a different response.”