It may well be that the very-public melding of politics and sports is a bell that simply cannot be un-rung.
Although the professional football season has come to an end, the divisive ideological expression that became so characteristic of this season has managed to stay alive even now as the championship has been decided, lockers are empty, and players have returned home for the off-season.
No sooner were the New England Patriots once again crowned the kings of the NFL than some team members began announcing they would not participate in the ritual of the Super Bowl-winning team visiting the White House this year…because Trump, of course.
According to a number of media outlets, including the Daily Mail, six Patriots have officially declared their non-participation in any team trip to the White House: Defensive back Devin McCourty, tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive end Chris Long, running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch.
Appearing on NFL Network’s The Rich Eisen Show, Blount said directly, “I will NOT be going to the White House. I don't feel welcome in that house. I'll leave it at that.”
When asked by the Dallas Morning News if he’d be participating in a White House visit, Bennett replied, “Most likely no, because I don't support the guy that's in the house.”
When McCourty told Time magazine that he was also not headed to the White House, he said, “The president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won't.”
While Long, Hightower and Branch have not publicly said that their reasons for declining a trip to the White House have anything to do with policy disagreements with its principal occupant, neither have they been forthcoming about other reasons for staying home. The closest any of the group has come to doing so is Alan Branch’s disclosure to Sporting News that he just wants to “hang out with the family.” That said, Branch did go along for the trip following the Patriots’ last Super Bowl victory in February 2015, when Barack Obama was president.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large