As is the custom, following their narrow victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots were invited to meet with the President at the White House.
So far, 6 members of the team have publicly declined the invitation, and it’s possible more may join them. This is the largest number of players from a championship team to ever skip a White House visit.
While at least two of the players – Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower – have given non-political reasons for skipping the meeting, they seem to be in the minority. Defensive back Devin McCourty told reporters: “With the President having so many strong opinions and prejudices. I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
This is not the first time McCourty has used his position in the league to get political. In September, McCourty joined in the Kaepernick
protests by raising his first in the air after the national anthem. McCourty later explained his actions to TIME Magazine
writer Sean Gregory, saying: “If you see something you feel is wrong in society, why not help out? Why not try to raise awareness?”
This would not be the first time members of the Patriots chose to skip a meeting with the President. In 2015, Tom Brady was notably absent when the team met with President Obama. There was widespread speculation in the press as to his motivations, but Brady claimed he had a “family commitment”.While many anti-Trump football fans would love for the Patriots to boycott the trip altogether, that seems highly unlikely. As The Daily Beast
pointed out, the Pats have basically become “Team Trump”. Tom Brady is golf buddies with Trump and coach Bill Belichek is also friends with the president; at least those two will be there, and with a 53 man team, odds are there will be quite a large number of players in attendance.