Brady misses Patriots' White House visit as Gronkowski interrupts Sean Spicer

Guardian sport
Tom Brady helped his team to a 34-28 comeback victory over the Falcons in February. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Tom Brady was missing from the New England Patriots’ trip to the White House on Wednesday – but Rob Gronkowski made up for his team-mate’s absence by crashing Sean Spicer’s news briefing and asking: “Sean, need some help?”

Spicer, Trump’s gaffe-prone press secretary, was taking questions from reporters about the president’s nuclear negotiations with Iran when Gronkowski suddenly appeared from a side door.

Gronkowski looked over and enquired: “Sean, need some help?”

Spicer replied: “I think I got this, but thank you.”

Gronkowki: “You sure?”

Spicer: “Maybe. All right, thanks man. I’ll see you in a minute.”

Gronkowski gave Spicer the thumbs-up and departed. After recovering his composure, Spicer flashed a grin and told the room: “That was cool.” Spicer, who grew up in Rhode Island, is reportedly a big Patriots fan.

Brady, 39, was scheduled to attend the celebration for the Super Bowl winners, but made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning that he had “personal family matters” to attend to. He did not provide further details, although the Boston Herald reported that he was spending time with his mother, who has been dealing with an illness for the last year.

In a statement, Brady wrote: “I am so happy and excited that our team is being honored at the White House today. Thank you to the president for hosting this honorary celebration and for supporting our team for as long as I can remember. In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today’s ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters. Hopefully, if we accomplish the goal of winning a championship in the future years, we will back on the South Lawn again soon. Have a great day!”

Several of Brady’s team-mates had, in recent months, indicated that they would boycott the meeting with Trump for political reasons. LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower, Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty all said they would not attend the team’s Super Bowl celebrations with the president. McCourty said: “The basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House.”

Brady, a confirmed Trump friend and reputed Trump voter, missed the Patriots’ visit with President Obama at the White House in 2015, also citing family issues.

The Patriots’ visit to the White House coincided with the news that Aaron Hernandez, the team’s former star tight end, had been found dead in his prison cell. Brady played with Hernandez in Super Bowl XLVI, and the pair combined for eight catches and 67 yards in the Patriots’ 21-17 defeat by the Giants.

The Patriots declined to comment further.

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