As of this writing, there are six members of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots who are on the record as saying they will not attend the White House if invited.
Safety Devin McCourty, tight end Martellus Bennett, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker Dont’a Hightower wouldn’t travel to Washington, D.C., with five indicating it is because of President Donald Trump and not feeling welcome; Hightower has said his decision is not political, but rather that he’s already been once, as a member of the Alabama national championship team.
And the Patriots’ face of the franchise, Tom Brady, who has declared Trump a longtime friend, said on Tuesday that’s their right.
“Everybody has their own choice,” Brady said on “PFT Live”. “There’s certain years, like a couple years ago, I wanted to go and didn’t get the opportunity based on the schedule — we didn’t get told until I think like 10 days before we were going, and at that point I had something I’d been planning for months and couldn’t get there.”
Brady did not make the trip in 2015 with the rest of his teammates, though he had visited the White House four times previously: after New England’s championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004, and in college, when Michigan won the national championship.
Brady wasn’t the only player to skip out in 2015 – Hightower didn’t go that year either.
“It really is a great experience,” Brady said. “Putting politics aside, it never was a political thing. At least, it never was to me. It meant you won a championship and you got to experience something cool with your team, with your teammates. Everyone has their own choice. It’s an offseason. These days are valuable for everybody. You only get so much time with your family and friends, and if people don’t want to go they don’t want to go and that’s their choice.”
One big question that remains is whether Trump will invite teams to the White House. It’s become a tradition, but very few things have followed tradition since he was inaugurated, so any debate or disagreement over players opting out may all be for naught. Then again, New England owner Robert Kraft was at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida this weekend and had dinner with Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, so if any team would get an invite, it would be his.
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