New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he isn't concerned with his players skipping out on the team's celebration ceremony at the White House.
At least six Patriots players—tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Chris Long, running back LaGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Alan Branch—have said they won't be attending, with some citing President Trump as a reason. Kraft also said this is the first time that the controversy of players missing the tradition has gotten any media attention.
Kraft spoke with NBC's Today show on Monday and was asked if the controversy has affected the relationship with his players because of his relationship with President Trump.
"It’s interesting, this is our fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years, and every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention,” Kraft said. “Some other players have the privilege of going [to the White House] in college because they’re on national championship teams. Others have family commitments. But this is America; we’re all free to do whatever’s best for us. We’re just privileged to be in a position to be going.”
While not everyone skipping the event identified President Trump as the reason, some players pointed to the new president.
"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," McCourty said.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not attend the White House festivities after the team won the Super Bowl following the 2014 season, citing a prior “family commitment.”
- Scooby Axson