Politics are likely to play a role in the Patriots’ upcoming visit to the White House, as at least four players have already declared their intention to skip the meeting with Trump in protest. Among them is defensive end Chris Long, a supporter of social justice issues who stood by Colin Kaepernick after the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback began protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement by kneeling during the national anthem.
Running back LeGarrette Blount has also expressed his intentions to stay home because he said he wouldn’t “feel welcome in that house.”
Meanwhile, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive back Devin McCourty declared their intentions to skip the visit even before they won the Super Bowl.
“I don’t support the guy that’s in the house,” Bennett told NJ.com in early February.
McCourty echoed those remarks telling Time magazine, “With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
In addition, two other Patriots players, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch have said they’d likely opt to stay home. They did not, however, cite political reasons. Hightower, who previously visited the White House after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, said he’s gone often enough already. Branch, meanwhile, said he’d rather spend time with his family.
It remains unclear whether quarterback Tom Brady will show up. He’s skipped the celebratory White House visit before, most recently in 2015 when he cited a “family commitment,” but ended up being spotted shopping for a watch in New York.
While Brady’s visit is up in the air, it’s likely team owner Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick, both public supporters of Trump, will make an appearance. The new face in the Oval Office might also come as a relief. The pair’s last visit with Obama in 2015 got a bit awkward when the former president dropped a Deflategate joke.
Trump will likely praise the team, which he rooted for during the game that he watched from his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago. If anything, Trump might need to apologize. He left the watch party when the Patriots were losing to the Atlanta Falcons, 28-3. Had he stayed, he would’ve witnessed one of the greatest comebacks of all time. At least he appeared to have followed the action on Twitter.