The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Yet, as the new NFL season approaches in two weeks, it is all but certain that they will not have the customary congratulatory ceremony at the White House, an event that has often been tense or divisive under President Donald Trump.
The lack of a ceremony, which both sides said had nothing to do with politics but everything to do with poor scheduling, is even more curious because the team’s owner, Robert K. Kraft, is a friend and supporter of Trump’s. Coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter of support to Trump days before the 2016 election. And Tom Brady, the team’s star quarterback, is known to have a relationship with Trump as well.
Yet, according to team and White House officials, scheduling conflicts have lowered the chances that the Patriots, who defeated the Los Angeles Rams for a record-tying sixth Super Bowl win, would visit. The two sides said they had been unable to find a convenient date despite the president’s eagerness to have the Patriots visit.
“We would welcome them to the White House in the future should a future date work out,” a White House spokesman said.
At this point, the rigors of practice and preseason games make it all but certain that the Patriots, famous for particularly disciplined training under Belichick, will not find time to detour for a visit.
The Patriots play the Washington Redskins in Washington on Oct. 6 and the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore on Nov. 3, but NFL teams are not known to alter their carefully mapped-out schedules in the days before regular-season games.
This is likely to be the second consecutive year the NFL champion has not visited the White House. In 2018, the president disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles after most of the players and coaches said they would boycott the visit in response to the president’s demands that players stand during the national anthem at games.
After the Patriots’ win in February, three players — Devin and Jason McCourty and Duron Harmon — said they would skip the visit to the White House if they were invited.
The Patriots have visited the White House five times after Super Bowl victories. Four of those trips came in the April following the Super Bowl and one in the subsequent May. Teams are typically together for workouts in the spring, making it a convenient time.
The two sides had chosen a date for the Patriots to visit in April, but when that fell through, the White House gave the team several alternatives. The Patriots chose a date in May from that list. But the president’s schedule shifted, and the visit was canceled. Team workouts resumed in June, followed by player vacations.
Kraft ran into legal trouble in February when he was charged with soliciting a prostitute in Florida, but the case was thrown out in May for a lack of evidence. The White House official said the case had nothing to do with the scheduling problems.
While the Patriots are unlikely to visit the White House this season, Kraft has been there recently. In July, the president invited him and other business leaders to a dinner in honor of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s ruling emir.
Visits by sports championship teams to the White House have become problematic during Trump’s time in office because of his criticism of protests during the anthem as well as his policies on immigration and rhetoric, which have been condemned as racist. Most recently, the U.S. women’s national team did not get an invitation after its World Cup victory in July and team captain Megan Rapinoe’s statement that she would not go.