From Tom Brady to Tim Thomas to Larry Bird, New England is hardly unfamiliar with prolific athletes skipping their team’s celebratory White House visit. In fact, it’s not particularly uncommon for individual players to duck out of the customary celebration in the capitol.
However, in light of President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric and policies, a slate of at least six members of the Super Bowl-winning squad have announced they would not be joining the team to see the Republican president. For what it’s worth, Brady, who is a good friend of Trump’s, is expected to be there.
Here are the players who are skipping Wednesday’s visit to the White House — and why they said they made the decision:
Before the Super Bowl had even been played, Bennett was hinting he would skip the White House visit if the Patriots happened.
“Most likely not, because I don’t support the person in it,” the tight end told the Detroit Free Press, when asked about the potential visit.
Indeed, after they won, Bennett told reporters he wasn’t going to go.
On the day after the Super Bowl, the Patriots defensive back told TIME magazine he also would not be going.
“Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” McCourty said, :With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
McCourty elaborated on his reasoning in a recently released video with Patriots fans and former teammate Chris Long.
“Right away I knew I wasn’t going because it was something I had thought about before we even won the game,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “believe in excluding other people.”
Long, who accompanied McCourty in the aforementioned video, has likewise been outspoken about his reasoning to skip the White House visit.
Following a New York Daily News writer’s open letter asking Long not to attend, the 31-year-old defensive end tweeted that he had already to planned to skip the visit. Long went on to defend the decision — amid some social media backlash — in a lengthy Twitter rant.
“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 the video with McCourty.
Blount announced his decision in an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show the week after the Super Bowl.
“I don’t feel welcome in that house,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The 30-year-old running back has yet to re-sign with the Patriots and, for now, remains a free agent.
“Been there, done that,” Hightower, one of the stars of Super Bowl LI, told ESPN’s Mike Reiss the week after the big game.
According to Reiss, Hightower made a point to note that he also skipped the Patriots’ visit in 2015 and also was not present at this year’s victory parade through Boston. The linebacker did visit the White House in 2014 after his Alabama team won the college national championship.
The Patriots re-signed Hightower in March.
Last but not least, the 32-year-old defensive lineman is also opting to skip the White House visit.
In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio before the date of the visit was even announced that he would be “spending time with family” instead.
The Patriots also re-signed Branch just last Monday.
Update: In an interview with The Boston Globe published Tuesday evening, Branch said the reason he decided to boycott the trip was the sexist remarks Trump made during a taped 2005 conversation uncovered last October by the Washington Post.
“I wouldn’t spend time away from my family to shake the hand of a guy I wouldn’t want to meet with or talk to,” he said. “I can’t see myself going and then hanging out with my kids and pretending everything was all right.”