Two New England Patriots say they will not meet Donald Trump after their Super Bowl victory. At least they’re not dodging the issue like their quarterback
By Andrew Jerell Jones / The Guardian / February 8, 2017
In the midst of the idiotic “stick to sports” movement engulfing anyone in the media who dares to disagree with the White House, Super Bowl LI was another prime example of how sports will always be intertwined with politics.
After the New England Patriots secured arguably the most shocking comeback win in American sports history on Sunday, their loquacious tight end Martellus Bennett presented the US public with another test of their sanity: either accept that athletes can make their own stands or risk being embarrassed trying to muzzle them.
Bennett became the first US athlete in the Donald Trump presidential era to declare that he won’t be going to a celebration at the White House. Safety and team captain Devin McCourty then became the second when he joined Bennetton Tuesday by declining the photo op with Trump.
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Bennett and McCourty’s refusal to meet Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t shocking. They aren’t the first black athletes to show disdain for the Twitter president and they won’t be the last. In fact, it’s mainstream not only for black athletes but for most musicians, entertainers, and young people of all colors, genders and stripes to be anti-Trump. It’s not like there aren’t myriad reasons to dislike him.
However, as is always the case, there are those (mostly male, white and conservative) fans that aren’t pleased whenever athletes express opinions that don’t line up with their own. Already some – from the usual Twitter eggs to pro wrestler Matt Striker – are chastising Bennett and McCourty.
What makes Bennett and McCourty’s critics look bad is how silent they were when Tom Brady produced the sorriest excuse ever in citing “family commitment” for not attending the Patriots’ White House trip to meet Obama two years ago. (Brady was apparently unhappy, of all things, with a joke about Deflategate.) Those critics were also silent when another Boston sports champion, then Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, didn’t hide his Tea Party views and dislike of Obama when he refused a White House trip with his team in 2011.
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why any sports figure, no matter what their color or political views, decides to decline a presidential meeting – it goes as far back as Larry Bird rejecting a Ronald Reagan visit in 1984. If they don’t want to go, they shouldn’t have to.
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Bennett and McCourty’s decision will have other intriguing subplots to follow besides a few ranters on Twitter. Will more players join the boycott? Specifically, will white Patriots players, coaches (OK, maybe not Bill Belichick) or the rest of the organization have the gumption to join them? And will Patriots owner Robert Kraft have enough common sense to be nonplussed with whatever decision his employees make about meeting his friend? The answers to those questions, at least in Kraft’s case, should be clear the moment he remembers Brady’s tepid choice two years ago.
Brady, never keen to talk about anything other than what his family and football mean to him, will almost certainly stay neutral on his team-mates’ choices. After all, despite displaying a “Make America Great Again” cap in the locker room and talking about his friendship with Trump, he did not want to get drawn into politics in the run-up to the Super Bowl. But by then it was too late for him. In this new divisive climate it was too late for all of us.