The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl on Sunday, which means they will get a chance to visit the White House later this year. It is an annual tradition in the major professional and college sports. Now departed President Barack Obama held his last such visit when he welcomed the Chicago Cubs to town.
New president Donald Trump has yet to host such a visit, but it is fitting that the Patriots are the first championship since he took office. He and Tom Brady are friends, but Trump has also discussed his friendship with Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick.
Fooch’s note: Let’s keep things as civil as possible, and keep it to this thread.
Since the Super Bowl wrapped, tight end Martellus Bennett and cornerback Devin McCourty have both said they will not attend the Patriots trip to the White House. Bennett simply said he would likely not attend because he does not support the President. McCourty told TIME that he will not attend because, “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.”
One player who will most likely attend is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He has a friendship with Trump, and of course, he once placed a “Make America Great Again” on display in his locker.
During the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Brady got numerous questions about his relationship with Trump, and how he feels about his policies. On Super Bowl Opening Night, Brady was asked about what is going on in the world. The reporter did not specify the protests and backlash to President Trump, but kept it more general. Brady’s response?
“What’s going on with the world, Buck?” asked Brady. A second entreaty from Buckley (I couldn’t hear it), included the response, “And what’s that? I haven’t paid much attention to what’s going on. I’m just a positive person. I just want the best for everybody, so …”
He has repeatedly said his relationship with Trump is not a big deal, and he does not understand all the questions.
On Tuesday, MMQB analyst Andrew Brandt brought up a point comparing the situation of Brady to that of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Speaking of popularity with fans and media, a thought about different treatment based on likability. When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem and candidly spoke about controversial topics, he was not only criticized (even blamed for the NFL ratings decline) but also constantly queried for more detail about his political stance. In contrast, when Tom Brady, an acknowledged friend of President Trump (whose campaign hat was once prominently displayed in Brady’s locker), declines to comment on any aspect of Trump’s stewardship of the country, there seems nary a word spoken about his consistent refusal to engage? Don’t we want our athletes to be more than robotic cliché machines, especially for a friend of the most controversial man on the planet? I am not saying treatment of either player is right, just pointing out how disparate it is.
I don’t think it is quite an apples-to-apples comparison, given the active vs. passive demonstrations (if you can call Brady’s decision a demonstration). But I do think there is a valid question to be answered in this. We’ll likely never know why Brady placed that hat in his locker room. It was back in September 2015, over 14 months before Trump won the election. He might not have thought anything of it at the time.
But considering what has happened since he first placed that hat there, and in light of Trump making numerous comments about their relationship, it is hard for Brady to duck out. The media has pushed on it, but he has played coy on the subject. Had Trump lost during the primaries, I think we can all agree this would not be a story. But with Trump now holding the presidency, the story was only going to pick up steam. For Brady to claim he doesn’t understand it means he is either lying or naive. I’d guess the latter so he can just move past the noise.
The coming year and beyond are going to be interesting with regard to White House visits. Normally they are pretty low key affairs. I went when the Baltimore Ravens were honored by President Obama. The president spoke, John Harbaugh spoke, and some players spoke. There were some cliches about them winning the Super Bowl, but it was mostly some jokes and a light-hearted time. With Trump now in office, we can expect to see some players choose not to attend, in their own form of demonstration. Given how the past six months have gone in the NFL and other sports with regard to athlete activism, it is going to be something to watch.