In what should be considered a great honor, the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are having difficulty coming to grips with a long-standing tradition of the U.S.’ champion sports teams being invited to the White House. After the team’s thrilling 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, several players have stated they do not plan to accept the invitation.
The first player to defect was Tight end Martellus Bennett, who stated he didn’t support “the guy that’s in the House.” Next up, it was safety Devin McCourty, who didn’t feel he should attend because of what he perceives to be President Donald Trump’s “many strong opinions and prejudices.” Following the footsteps of these two players are at least four other players, who plan on not attending.
For decades, the opportunity to visit the White House as a champion had been treated with great reverence and an honor until the last few years. More recently, it would seem that players and coaches are using this unique privilege as an opportunity to make some sort of political statement.
Late last year, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta made clear his view of the anti-Trump movement when he personally decided not to join his team when they were invited to the White House by former President Barack Obama. There have been other notable absentees, including Patriots QB Tom Brady, who skipped the invitation in a prior year.
No one is questioning a player’s right to pass on the invitation. What seems most concerning about this trend is two-fold: Is professional sports the right platform for trying to make political statements?, and more importantly, it’s quite possible this particular tradition may have run its course.
In the future, it might make more sense for the President to simply invite a few designated players as representatives and take the pressure off players to make a stand one way or another.