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At least six Patriots now say they’ll skip White House visit

  • New England Patriots Martellus Bennett is interviewed on the field after a win against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) Gregory Payan

  • New England Patriots football free safety Devin McCourty smiles during a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in NFL football's Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

  • New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount prepares for a walk through at the practice facility in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)LeGarrette Blount is back in New England colors.ap file Stew Milne



Washington Post
Friday, February 10, 2017

The New England Patriots recently won their fifth Super Bowl title. The number of New England players saying they’ll skip the traditional champions’ visit to the White House is now up to six, and may get larger.

Defensive end Chris Long, running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Alan Branch added their names to the list Thursday, joining tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive back Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower as having publicly stated an intention not to accompany the team on its expected trip to Washington later this year. Some, but not all, of the six players cited an antipathy to President Trump as their reason.

Long was responding to a column by Chuck Modiano of the New York Daily News, one framed as an open letter that implored the longtime Ram and former Virginia star to “stand up” to Trump. “You are one of the only white NFL athletes who publicly seemed to ‘get it’ after Colin Kaepernick took his national anthem stand,” Modiano wrote.

On his Twitter account, Long replied by saying, “Oh Chuck. Planned on skipping, hadn’t been asked. Don’t need an open letter explaining my own words to me. Not *joining* anyone. My call.”

Blount, who led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns this season, told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, “I will not be going to the White House. It’s just some of the things that – I just don’t feel welcome in that house, I’m going to just leave it at that.”

Branch, interviewed on Sirius XM radio, offered a different reason for declining the meet-and-greet with the president: “I’m going to hang with family and continue to celebrate until next season starts.”

For Hightower, it was a case of “Been there, done that,” which were his words Wednesday on the topic. The linebacker had visited the White House twice as a member of Alabama’s BCS title-winning teams, and he pointed out that he had eschewed the trip in 2015, after the Patriots had notched a Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks.

Bennett and McCourty made it clear that they did not approve of the White House’s current occupant. Before the Super Bowl was even played, Bennett said he “most likely” would skip the visit, adding, “I don’t support the guy that’s in the house.”

Immediately following New England’s comeback win Sunday over Atlanta, Bennett confirmed he wouldn’t go, noting that he wasn’t concerned about upsetting Patriots owner Robert Kraft. A longtime friend of Trump’s, as is quarterback Tom Brady, Kraft has received words of effusive praise from the president, as have Brady and Coach Bill Belichick.

On Monday, it was McCourty’s turn. “I’m not going to the White House,” he wrote in a text message to Time. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. ... With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”

With about 10 percent of the team already announcing an intention to skip the White House visit, it remains to be seen how much more of the roster follows suit. Running back James White, who scored three touchdowns in the Super Bowl in what many thought was an MVP-worthy performance, and linebacker Rob Ninkovich have said that they were unsure if they would make the trip.

It is even possible that an invitation from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. won’t be extended to New England at all, despite the ties to Kraft, Brady and Belichick, if enough players stage a boycott and Trump’s own team decides that the optics would be bad for him. According to ESPN, the tradition dates back to at least 1865, when President Andrew Johnson received a pair of amateur baseball squads, and ramped up under President Ronald Reagan, quickly becoming a rite of championship passage for many college and professional teams.