For what seems like the thousandth time in the few short months that Donald Trump has been in office, another controversy was started on social media after photos were posted Wednesday showing the NFL Champion New England Patriots’ visit to the White House.
The New York Times and other media outlets compared the photos of the Patriots’ most recent White House visit with those taken when they won the Super Bowl back in 2015, and the differences weren’t flattering at least as far as they concern President Trump.
A side-by-side comparison of the photos illustrates how many more Patriots visited the executive residence back in 2015 when President Obama was still in office, whereas the contingent this year looked fairly small. Throwing further fire on the suggestion that many players boycotted the event in protest of President Trump and his policies was a report stating that only 34 of the 64 players on the Patriots’ roster made the trip to Washington D.C. to meet with him.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017
However, the Patriots and the White House were quick to refute these claims. The team responded via Twitter stating that the difference in the photos was caused by the fact that over 40 members of the team’s staff were standing on the stairs in the 2015 photo, whereas this year they were all seated on the South Lawn and thus not in the picture.
The Patriots then followed that up with another tweet showing a photo of the team standing with former President George W. Bush, which seems to show a similar sized crowd to the most recent photo. The photo was accompanied by an explanation saying that the last time the team won two championships in three years, only 36 players attended the ceremony, quite similar to the 34 that attended this year.
The White House issued its own statement, saying that comparing the two events is like “apples and oranges,” and the media has never previously paid any attention to who attended the yearly ceremony and who didn’t. Furthermore, they continued with the line that the total number of players in attendance this year was on par with the numbers who’ve attend in years past.
Nonetheless, there were more than a few notable names that didn’t attend, none more so than quarterback Tom Brady, who announced on the morning of the event that he wouldn’t attend due to family reasons. Joining him in not attending were running back LaGarrett Blount, defensive end Chris Long, tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive back Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower amongst numerous others.
Some of the players even specifically cited their opposition to President Trump as the reason they wouldn’t attend, and Bennett instead did a Facebook Live event with comedian Chelsea Handler while at least some of his other teammates were meeting the President.
Despite using his family as his excuse for not attending, Brady’s absence was virtually guaranteed to be discussed considering he once gave a post-game interview with a Make America Great hat prominently visible in his locker.
Despite the fact that it’s quite common for at least some players to not attend, the visit of the Patriots was always going to be met with more scrutiny due to the team’s past ties to Trump.
Among these connections was Trump’s announcement on the day before the general election that both Brady and head coach Bill Belichick had supported his presidential campaign, something which Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen later publicly denied. As well, Trump has stated that he counts Brady as a close friend, while the President also has ties to Patriots owner Tom Kraft and his family.