Following the New England Patriots’ comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett stated that he would not be attending his team’s ceremonial visit to the White House. It is a customary tradition for the victors of the Super Bowl, and other World Championships, to visit the President at the White House. “I am not going to go,” Bennett said to the press following his team’s win. “I can elaborate later on in life; right now, I am just going to enjoy this. People know how I feel about it; just follow me on Twitter.” Bennett referenced his vocal opposition of Donald Trump via Twitter in this statement and claims that he is “not really worried” about any backlash that may come from him skipping the White House visit.
He is not the only Patriot who will be skipping the White House visit. “I’m not going to the White House,” Patriots free safety Devin McCourty said to TIME Magazine on Monday. “The 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.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all have very public ties with Trump, but this decision has not swayed or prevented Bennett or Trump from their decisions.
Many people are shocked and outraged at Bennett and McCourty for not attending their team’s visit to the White House. Some have called their decision “unpatriotic”, “disrespectful” and “absurd”, but I am not at all surprised. After all, is it really surprising that two athletes who raised their fists during the National Anthem in protest towards racism are refusing to attend the home of an administration and a man who blatantly oppose civil rights? Is it really surprising that Bennett and McCourty are refusing to take pictures and shake hands with a man who said, “Our great African-American president hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!” via Twitter on Apr. 27, 2015?
McCourty is right when he said that he believed attending the event is a personal choice. It is not disrespectful or unpatriotic for the two of them to refuse to visit Trump at the White House; it is a political and social statement that they have every right to make. Anyone who is calling “disrespect” or “unpatriotism” at Bennett’s and McCourty’s decisions needs to go reread (or, perhaps, start reading) the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.