New England Patriots players skipping the White House visit should face the same lack of scrutiny that Tom Brady faced when he did the same in 2015.
Professional sports and societal conversations often intersect in compelling ways. To some, Super Bowl 51 was a game pitting the two best teams in the league against each other. To others, they saw a microcosm of the various situations impacting the American society today.
In the aftermath of the New England Patriots 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the focus hasn’t shifted to the 2017 season quite yet. Instead, many are looking towards a potential visit to the White House for the Pats, which has become a controversial discussion.
At first listen, this situation seems to start with the growing list of Patriots players that are opting out of a potential meeting with President Donald Trump. Tradition has practiced that the acting President of the United States invites championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their recent victory.
This practice has become a lightning rod of diatribe as LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Martellus Bennett, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty have each revealed that they don’t plan on visiting the White House. In their own way, each has mentioned his disapproval of the political practices occurring within the Trump Administration and their lack of a visit is a resounding statement.
“Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” McCourty said as reported by Sean Gregory of TIME Magazine. “With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Anytime a conversation within sports turns to include aspects of political banter, there tends to be a negative response from many who enjoy the game. Fans and some media members have denounced the players that are deciding to not attend the visit. While any individual is entitled to have their own opinion, one must wonder were those same criticism were when future NFL Hal of Famer and Super Bowl 51 MVP, Tom Brady, decided he wasn’t going to attend the White House visit while President Barack Obama was in office.
Back in 2015, Brady cited a planned “family commitment” as the reason he was unable to attend the visit. However, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Brady was at Gillette Stadium for a “stretch of time on Thursday while many in the organization were at the White House.” The story ended there as Brady wasn’t met with the same level of criticism facing his teammates today. This is especially telling when Brady was available to meet with George Bush during the earlier Patriots title runs.
The question of “why” brings out a variety of answers. Some will cite racism, others will look at Brady’s response to the comments from Josh Earnest about Deflategate and others could not care less. No matter the stance, the fact still remains that all of these players have the right to express themselves and their freedom of speech however they see fit.
More and more we are seeing professional athletes taking a stand for off the field/court situations and using their platform to spread those feelings. Instead of being so quick to dismiss their point of view while saying “just shut up and play,” this era of social activism should praised. If Brady didn’t face any criticism for not attending the victory party, any athlete doing the same during this administration should face the same response.