The NFL’s New England Patriots made the traditional trip to the White House on Wednesday as a reward for winning the Super Bowl in a memorable February comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. However, the biggest news that came out of the meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump was how small the contingent of Patriots was compared to previous Super Bowl visits by the team hailing from Boston.
In one embarassing exchange, Trump praised wide receiver Danny Amendola in his speech but he had to be informed that Amendola was not present at the ceremony; Amendola later clarified he had to attend a funeral. Additionally, quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps the biggest star on the team, declined to join the Patriots’ trip to Washington, D.C. citing family reasons. Other players on the team, such as running back LeGarrette Blount, tight end Martellus Bennett, and secondary man Devin McCourty, were clearer about their political reasons for not attending. McCourty, a team captain, told Time magazine, “With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Patriots spokesman Stacey James said that the turnout of 34 players was similar to the attendance for the 2004 and 2005 ceremonies when George W. Bush was in office. The biggest turnouts for post-Super Bowl victory meetings at the White House occurred in 2002, when 45 players made the trip to the Bush White House, and in 2015, when 50 players went to see Barack Obama. James speculated that the number was smaller this year because many players on the team had already come in 2015 and did not feel like visiting the same place twice in the relatively short three-year span. James also believes that the public perception of the turnout size is influenced by more support staff being invited to the White House for the 2015 ceremony.