According to a recent report by The New York Times, several 2017 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots were not present for the traditional champions' visit with President Donald Trump. The eight noticeably absent players included starting quarterback Tom Brady, running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tight end Martellus Bennett, and safety Devin McCourty.
Perhaps the biggest name not in attendance at the traditional White House visit was Tom Brady, a man whom President Trump once claimed that he is "good friends" with. Brady didn't deny this claim, instead citing "family matters" as his reasoning for choosing not to attend. Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola also assured reporters that his decision was not politically motivated, instead stating the he had a funeral to attend.
However, several of the absent Patriots players did specifically cite political differences as their motivation for skipping the visit. Star running back LeGarrette Blount said in a radio interview with The Rich Eisen Show, “I just don’t feel welcome in that house.”
Blount isn't alone in this sentiment, as safety Devin McCourty also 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.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett also explained that his decision not to attend was politically motivated, “It is what it is. People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter.” Bennett once joked that he would consider moving to outer space if Trump was elected president. Both McCourty and Bennett participated in last year's now-infamous national anthem protests.
Defensive tackle Alan Branch cited President Trump's long history of sexist comments as his reason for skipping the visit, while Dont'a Hightower simply stated that he had "been there, done that" after visiting the White House as part of his championship Alabama team.
This isn't the first time that championship athletes have skipped their invitation with the sitting president as a result of both personal and politcal motives. Even Tom Brady himself did not attend his championship team's 2012 visit with President Obama, citing family matters that year as well.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed his surprise in the level of media coverage over this year's visit, claiming that several NFL players have chosen not to attend the traditional visit over the years, and he sees no reason why this year deserves special attention.
Kraft told the Today show, “It’s interesting, this is our fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years, and every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention," he said. “This is America; we’re all free to do whatever’s best for us. We’re just privileged to be in a position to be going.”