Six New England Patriots have already announced that they will not attend the White House if the team is invited by President Donald Trump. But quarterback Tom Brady thinks they’ll be missing out on a fun trip.
“It really is a great experience,” Brady told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “Putting politics aside, it never was a political thing. At least, it never was to me. It meant you won a championship and you got to experience something cool with your team, with your teammates. Everyone has their own choice. It’s an offseason. These days are valuable for everybody. You only get so much time with your family and friends, and if people don’t want to go they don’t want to go and that’s their choice.”
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as “putting politics aside” to enjoy a great experience. The divisive actions and rhetoric of Trump during his presidential campaign and in the few weeks since he has taken office have caused athletes across the sports world to take a stand.
Brady has called Trump a “good friend” and a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in his locker. He’s faced tough questions about that friendship as a consequence, and the Patriots have been perceived as “Trump’s team” due to his relationship with the quarterback as well as coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.
While Brady touts the trip to Washington, D.C. as a cool, apolitical experience, it’s clearly more than that. With players like LeGarrette Blount and Devin McCourty both saying they won’t go because they don’t feel welcomed or accepted in the White House, any player who does go will be seen as tacitly endorsing Trump, even if they don’t wish to make that statement.
Brady’s insistence that the White House visit isn’t political also raises eyebrows as the quarterback didn’t make the trip two years ago when Barack Obama was in office.
“Everybody has their own choice,” Brady told Pro Football Talk. “There’s certain years, like a couple years ago, I wanted to go and didn’t get the opportunity based on the schedule — we didn’t get told until I think like 10 days before we were going, and at that point I had something I’d been planning for months and couldn’t get there.”
But according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Brady was “present at [Gillette Stadium] for a stretch of time Thursday” while the rest of the team was at the White House. There were rumors that the reason for his absence was a joke made by White House press secretary Josh Earnest about Deflategate.
Brady made three trips to Washington, D.C. during George W. Bush’s presidency following Super Bowl victories and one during Bill Clinton’s presidency as a member of the Michigan Wolverines.
Even if Brady did just happen to have a busy schedule that kept him from visiting two years ago, the decision to visit Trump’s White House is going to be a political one for players, whether the quarterback thinks it should be or not.