Although many seemed to delight in the lack of political statements during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI halftime show, while others expressed their displeasure with “Hamilton” stars adding “and sisterhood” to their rendition of “America the Beautiful,” Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett gave a definitive answer when asked if he would be making the customary trip sports champs make to the White House.
“I’m not going to go,” Bennett said.
“It is what it is. People know how I feel about it. Just follow me on Twitter,” Bennett said, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“You just don’t bring that to work. We all have our beliefs. We accept people for who they are,” Bennett said of the locker room policy on politics.
Bennett confirmed what he said would likely be the case if the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
“I don’t know. I’ve got to win the Super Bowl first, but most likely no,” Bennett said last week. “I don’t – that’s not – I don’t support the guy that’s in the house,” namely President Donald Trump.
Bennett is being praised for taking this stance.
Others have said, remember when Tom Brady didn’t visit President Barack Obama in 2015?
Brady was soundly ripped by sports pundit Steven A. Smith at the time:
So Tom Brady couldn’t attend, huh? So Tom Brady couldn’t attend. But was he there in 2001 when George W. Bush was president? Yes. Was he there in 2003 and 2004? I’m not sure about anything, I’m just simply presenting the question because I got a problem with the fact that the franchise quarterback… the face of New England Patriots, the future Hall of Famer and all of this other stuff. Tom Brady can’t do anything wrong. He passes gas as perfume, OK. That’s how untouchable Tom Brady is but when George W. Bush was president in 2001, 2003, 2004, Tom Brady was there. Tom Brady was there at the White House celebrating.
Two other instances of high profile athletes skipping out on visits to the White House while Obama was president come to mind.
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made a statement after the team won the Stanley Cup. Thomas was the MVP of the finals.
Thomas at the time wrote on his Facebook page that he would not visit President Obama because he believed the government had “grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties and Property of the People.”
Thomas’ decision was viewed as a “distraction.”
“There’s no disputing the argument that Thomas’ decision has been a distraction to the team. How could it not be, with the entirety of the media, from hockey beat writers to Reason.com sports dislikers, weighing in?” Katie Baker of Grantland wrote at the time. “(Almost immediately, cryptic and critical reports from vague “team sources”suggested that Thomas was destroying the locker room; when he didn’t play the next night, people murmured that he might be on his way out.)”
Others opined that “Thomas’ absence was uncalled for” and that he “put himself above the team.”
Center Matt Birk notably declined to visit the White House after the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2013.
Birk decided not to go because he disagreed with the president’s stance on abortion.
While some commended Birk for standing up for what he believes in, others said he needed to “grow up” and that the stance was “lame.”
Here is a more complete list of athletes who have boycotted visits to the White House.