WASHINGTON — The Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory on Wednesday — but the event was a bit deflated without the team’s biggest star.
Quarterback Tom Brady announced at the last minute that he wouldn’t attend, citing “personal family matters.” And a number of other Patriots stars boycotted the event because of President Trump, leaving the crowd a bit less star-studded than it has been in past years.
Trump bragged about his close relationship with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick during the event, talking up how Belichick wrote him a letter during the 2016 campaign. Kraft is also a longtime Trump friend, who donated $1 million to the President’s inauguration this year.
But he notably didn’t mention Brady — who stirred controversy when a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in his locker last season, and assiduously avoided weighing in on the presidential race. This isn’t the first time Brady skipped a White House Super Bowl celebration — he wasn’t there in 2015 either.
The President used the Patriots’ huge comeback in last winter’s Super Bowl to take a swipe at “the pundits.”
“With your backs against the wall and the pundits, good old pundits, boy they’re wrong a lot aren’t they, saying you couldn’t do it, the game was over, you pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time,” Trump said during the event on the South Lawn of the White House.
But some of that game’s key players kept far away from the White House, including six-time team captain and safety Devin McCourty, who said at a Boston University event earlier this week that he wouldn’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,” he said, according to ESPN.
Others who boycotted the event included star tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive end Chris Long, running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Alan Branch, while a dozen or so more were absent, though it’s unclear who missed the event over politics and who just had other places to be.
"When my son grows up — and I believe the legacy of our President is going to be what it is — I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey dad, why’d you go when you knew the right thing was to not go,’" Long said in a video with McCourty explaining why they wouldn’t attend.
For comparison’s sake, all but four of the Chicago Cubs attended their White House celebration in the closing days of President Obama’s administration earlier this past winter.
The celebration comes on a strange day for the Patriots, as former star tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez was found dead in apparent suicide by prison guards on Wednesday.