By Jackie Hart, Sports Editor
Super Bowl LI was one for the record books, literally and metaphorically. Tom Brady became the only quarterback to win five Super Bowls, the only NFL player to win Super Bowl MVP four times and set new records in passing yards (466), pass completions (43) and pass attempts (62). Additionally, Brady and Belichick are the only player-coach duo to win five Super Bowls, the Patriots overcame the largest deficit (25 points) in Super Bowl history, and competed in the first ever overtime Super Bowl game. The list could go on and on, it was a game that shocked everyone watching, Pats fan or not.
So how come one of the biggest news stories to come from it was that a few Patriots members won’t be going to the White House? Tight end Martellus Bennett (62 yards in Super Bowl LI) was the first to speak out. “I am not going to go, I can elaborate later on in life; right now I am just trying to enjoy this.” said Bennett. He further stated he wasn’t worried about any potential backlash from the organization. Soon after, Bennett was joined in his decision by five of his teammates, defensive end Chris Long, running back LeGarrette Blount defensive tackle Alan Branch, defensive back Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. They all gave their reasons; Blount and McCourty both said it was simply that they don’t support the man who lives there and don’t feel welcome in that environment. On the other hand, Hightower said it was more of a “been there done that” type of deal, after going twice with Alabama in college, he didn’t feel the need to go again, and even skipped the trip in 2015 after the Patriots beat Seattle. Long, the only white member of the group, has made his anti-Trump views clear and stood by this decision, even after the intense and brutal criticism he’s received over social media.
New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who has been reported as a good friend of the new President, cleared the air by saying “You just don’t bring that to work. We all have our beliefs. We accept people for who they are.” Many were quick to point out that Brady himself missed the last visit, citing a previously planned family occasion on the same day. He was criticized intensely for his decision, so when his teammates were attacked this time, he came out in support. “Everybody has their own choice,” Brady said. “There’s certain years, like a couple years ago, I wanted to go, and then didn’t get the opportunity based on the scheduling. We didn’t get told until 10 days before we were going and at that point I had something that I had been planning for months.” said Brady. He added that in the off-season, everyone wants to spend their hard earned time off with their family and on vacation, so they shouldn’t be judged for their decision.
Let’s face it: politics and sports are not a good mix. They’re two completely separate entities, and this is certainly not the first time athletes have skipped the White House trip, but perhaps it’s the most media attention it’s ever received. Yes, it was a crazy election, and a lot of people have felt isolated by the results, but that doesn’t mean it should demean and devalue the incredible win by the Patriots. These players deserve to enjoy their victory, and their decisions whether to attend or not attend are not what’s important.