At least three members of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots have said they will not visit the White House for the traditional meeting that championship teams have with the president.
The Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower became the latest to bow out when he told ESPN on Wednesday: “Been there, done that” having visited with a championship Alabama team.
Tight end Martellus Bennett told reporters after the Super Bowl that he would not go: “It is what it is,” he said. “People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter.” The outspoken Bennett had joked that he might move to outer space after Donald J. Trump was elected.
The Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty, a team captain, told Time magazine: “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.”
Bennett and McCourty were in the news for their activism last fall, when they raised their fists in protest during the national anthem for one game. At the time, athletes in various sports were protesting racial oppression in the country.
The number of Patriots absences may well increase. Running back James White said he had not made up his mind whether to go.
“I’ll wait till the time comes and decide then,” he said.
No date has been scheduled for this year’s ceremony honoring the Patriots. The ceremony for last year’s champions, the Broncos, took place in June.