The New England Patriots visited the White House on Wednesday to celebrate their Super Bowl victory with President Trump. The Patriots presented Trump with a silver helmet and a jersey emblazoned with his name. In 2015, the Patriots presented President Obama with a helmet signed by all the players; interestingly, none of this year’s team signed the helmet presented to the president.
The tone of the event has traditionally been lighter than it was this year. This visit had a heavier tone, since star quarterback Tom Brady was absent, and Aaron Hernandez’s surprising suicide occurred earlier that day. Hernandez’s death was not raised during the ceremony, and Trump made no mention of Brady, even though the quarterback’s game-changing performance in the Super Bowl and during the entire season and seasons prior were key factors in his team’s success. Brady’s absence came as a surprise because on multiple occasions in the past he had interacted with Trump in a friendly manner. In 2015, Brady claimed he would be missing the same ceremony when Obama was president due to personal matters. Later that day, he was spotted buying a watch. He announced his absence from the ceremony Wednesday morning by stating, “In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today’s ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters.” Perhaps he was with his ill mother.
At least five Patriots boycotted the White House ceremony because of Trump’s policies or practices. Only 34 members of the 63-man roster attended. When it was Bob Kraft’s turn to speak, he praised Trump for his campaign, calling him “a man who is mentally tough and hard-working as anyone I know.” Trump praised the Patriots for being the best team, highlighting the word “team.” He focused on the fact that each man did what was necessary to make the team successful, and that no other team had ever done that as well as they did. Given their extraordinary season and amazing comeback in the Super Bowl, no truer words were ever spoken.
Players who spoke to reporters before and after the ceremony declined to comment on Aaron Hernandez’s death. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell also declined to comment on the absent players and explained that he chose to attend the ceremony because he has never visited the White House before. The Patriots who showed up early in the day received a private tour of the White House, and Rob Gronkowski created a big surprise by sliding into the press room through a side door and asking Sean Spicer if he needed any help. They also ate lunch and met privately with Trump for about 30 minutes.