Before the Super Bowl, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett said that he likely wouldn't visit the White House if his team won, because he doesn't support Donald Trump. Well, the Patriots won -- thanks to a historic comeback against the Falcons.
Sure enough, Bennett confirmed after the game that he won't be stopping by the White House, saying he doesn't care what Robert Kraft -- a friend of Trump, as is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick -- thinks.
Patriots TE Martellus Bennett said he will not go to the White House to honor Super Bowl win. Not worried about what his owner thinks.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) February 6, 2017
Patriots safety Devin McCourty also declined the White House's impending invitation after the game.
"I'm not going to the White House," McCourty told TIME on Monday in a text message. "Basic reason for me is I don'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."
The thing is, the Patriots really can't get upset at Bennett and McCourty. For one, it's their choice to make. Two, given Trump lost the popular vote by roughly three million votes (according to CNN), more players could end up joining Bennett and McCourty. Three, Brady himself skipped the team's White House visit in 2015 without providing a solid explanation for his absence.
As our John Breech wrote at the time, it wasn't really clear why Brady skipped:
According to the Patriots, Brady skipped out on the White House visit because he had a previously planned "family commitment."
As it turns out though, Brady wasn't with his family when the Patriots went to Washington on the morning of April 23. According to ESPN.com, the Patriots quarterback was actually at Gillette Stadium getting some stretching in while the rest of the team was visiting with Obama.
And Brady certainly wasn't the first NFL player or athlete to skip out on the White House. Let's take a look at some other notable names ...
"The Broncos graciously extended an invitation for me to join them at The White House on Monday, but due to a scheduled OTA in Houston, I feel it is important to be at practice with my new teammates. It's a new offensive system for me and every practice and rep is extremely important. I am very appreciative of the Broncos wanting to include me on this special day."
Those extra OTA reps definitely did not pay off.
James Harrison skipped the Steelers' trip to the White House twice (2006 and 2009).
He explained why below, via ESPN:
"I don't feel the need to go, actually," Harrison told Pittsburgh station WTAE-TV. "I don't feel like it's that big a deal to me."
Harrison doesn't believe the invitation is all that special, saying if the Steelers hadn't beaten the Cardinals 27-23 with a last-minute rally, Obama "would have invited Arizona."
Yes, that's how it works.
The Ravens lineman skipped the trip in 2013 because he disagreed with President Obama.
"I wasn't there," Birk said Thursday on KFAN-AM in Baltimore. "I would say this -- I would say that I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, 'God bless Planned Parenthood.'
"Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am Catholic. I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't endorse that in any way."
Brinson went on to explain that Birk actually misquoted Obama's speech, which ended in a different way.
"Thank you, Planned Parenthood," Obama said at the end of his speech. "God bless you. God bless America."
He's not an NFL player, but he's Michael Jordan, so he gets to make the list.
He said he chose to spend time with his family instead of visiting the White House with the Bulls in 1991. At the time, George H.W. Bush was president.
He's also not an NFL player, but he's also Larry Bird, so he also gets to make the list. He also had the best reason for skipping the Celtics' trip to see President Reagan in 1984.
"If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me," Bird said.
- The Cardinals' Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa in 2010
- The Red Sox's Manny Ramirez in 2008
- Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in 2012
- NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick
These are just some of the athletes who have declined invites to the White House in the past. Bennett, McCourty, and anyone else that joins them in skipping the Patriots' White House visit won't be alone. And it likely won't stop with them.
In fact, one could argue that the entire Cubs organization declined the chance to visit President Trump in the White House when they made the trip to see Obama in the last week of his presidency.
"Donald Trump, during his candidacy, he became a polarizing candidate, which included along the way, insulting a lot of people," Rose said. "So those same people today as American citizens have to digest that he's going to be the next president of the United States. How it's going to affect sports? Unlike Tom Brady, when his team won the championship, and he chose not to go to the White House, saying it was a scheduling conflict when Barack Obama was in office ... What we're going to see in professional sports -- NBA and NFL -- mark my words, there will be players that decline the opportunity to visit the White House under his presidency."
Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty, and perhaps more Patriots are first up.