Nobody with the Patriots will say it. Nobody has to.
The 2018 Super Bowl champion Patriots aren’t going to the White House to be feted by President Trump because it just isn’t worth the trouble.
Our buddy Mike Reiss noted in his Sunday column that each of the five previous Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams made their visits by the middle of May with four of the visits coming in April.
Meanwhile, it’s July. They ain’t going. This will be the fifth time since the tradition began in 1987 that the Super Bowl winners haven’t gone.
Why would the Patriots and the president just call the whole thing off?
Where would you like to start?
Robert Kraft’s legal issues stemming from a charge of soliciting prostitution were front-and-center in late April. He probably wasn’t down with having every network in America running footage of him smiling and waving while analysts debated whether he should be somewhat, very or completely ashamed of himself.
Meanwhile, Trump probably wouldn’t be able to resist coming to Kraft’s defense with off-the-cuff comments that – if I know my presidential history – would be cosmically stupid or inappropriate.
Then there’s Tom Brady. Brady’s friendship with Trump – a marriage of mutual megastar convenience if there ever was one – cooled significantly when Trump’s candidacy went from a lark to a real thing.
Brady’s attempts to quietly distance himself from the president since 2016 without denouncing him have mostly succeeded. Trump, for his part, hasn’t been happy about it but he hasn’t verbally nuked Brady either.
He’d probably like to. One of the most bizarre anecdotes of the past few years (among many) was Trump melting down when he learned two years ago Brady wasn’t coming to the White House.
Tom Brady blew off the post SB51 visit (he also didn’t go after SB49) and Trump blew a gasket when he learned his would-be son-in-law wasn’t coming to the White House.
According to the Washington Post, the president was on Air Force One when he found out Brady was bailing. Trump called aides, associates and even Kraft to try and get Brady to change his mind.
Brady, who said he skipped to spend time with his ailing mother Galynn, didn’t go and Trump never mentioned him during the event.
While Brady and Kraft have criticized or gone dark with Trump, his heartiest supporter in the organization — Bill Belichick — likely remains in his corner. Belichick famously penned a support letter for Trump that the president shared with New Hampshire supporters on the eve of the 2016 election.
As recently as last spring, Trump was getting intel from Belichick on what was bugging Brady with phone calls that were so long Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly felt compelled to remark upon them.
But Belichick realizes the optics of going to the White House without Brady and a number of the team’s core players who are staunchly against some of Trump’s methods and stances.
The focus won’t be on a celebration but on who does or does not attend and what that attendance infers about the individuals who do choose to go.
Why invite the potential for discord?
If you’re Belichick, why put yourself at public odds with players you value as much as Devin and Jason McCourty, Matthew Slater, Duron Harmon or Benjamin Watson? No upside.
(Personally, I’d go and use the opportunity to point out attendance at a White House event does not mean lockstep agreement with anything or everything the White House represents. And I also think a chance to look someone in the eye and express one’s misgivings about an issue – even for a moment – still has value. But who cares. I won no Super Bowl.)
This isn’t unprecedented. Trump disinvited the Eagles last year and put on a “Celebration of America” event instead. He was mad because a number of Eagles said they weren’t going.
Other occasions of teams not making it to Washington had more weighty issues keeping them away than the president’s feelings.
The ’85 Bears — the first team invited — didn’t go in early 1986 because of the space shuttle Challenger explosion two days after the Bears beat the Patriots. The ’85 Bears did get a makeup visit in 2011 with President Obama.
The ’86 Giants were the first team to make it to Washington. When the Giants won again after the 1990 season, they didn’t visit. The early stages of the first Gulf War were unfolding.
The ’98 Broncos didn’t get to visit President Clinton who — in early 2000 — was grappling with impeachment exercises after the Monica Lewinsky affair. And the ’99 Rams also didn’t visit Clinton who was trying to broker peace in the Middle East.
War stopped the 2002 Buccaneers from going to Washington as well with the invasion of Iraq.
Now though, after two years with no visit and the conversation around whether or not to go if invited remaining a divisive topic, it seems like post-championship White House visits are entering lame duck status.
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