A growing number of New England Patriots players are vowing to boycott the traditional post-Super Bowl visit to the White House in light of President Donald Trump’s policies and opinions.
Tight end Martellus Bennett was the first player to announce he would skip the presidential meeting held in honour of the Super Bowl champions. Bennett announced his boycott following Sunday night’s game, telling the Dallas Morning News, “People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter.”
Bennett has been vocal about his opposition to Trump’s policies on social media, tweeting “Surprised the president dude didn’t ban celebrating Chinese New Year in America,” days after Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning people holding passports from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
The next day Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty told Time he too would skip the presidential visit.
“With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t,” he said in the interview.
Since then, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive tackle Alan Branch, and defensive end Chris Long have joined the growing list of team members who have chosen not to attend, putting pressure on others to follow suit.
But the boycott could cause tension on the team; team owner Robert Kraft is a Trump supporter and even attended a dinner in Washington for him before the inauguration. Star quarterback Tom Brady is also reportedly friends with Trump, though he has largely refrained from sharing his political opinions, according to Sports Illustrated.
Brady did, however, throw his support behind Trump hours before the second Republican debate in 2015 while joking about being golf partners.
“I hope so,” he said. “It would be great. There would be a putting green on the White House lawn, I can tell you that.”
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A “Make America Great Again” was also spotted in Brady’s locker at the time.
Despite the fact some players will be missing, the president is ready to welcome the Super Bowl champions to the oval office. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump was looking forward to hosting the team. He called the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons a “spectacular game.”
– With files from The Associated Press