Why six members of the Patriots won't be going to the White House
Six members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have said they won't be making the customary trip to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.
Those Patriots are tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Chris Long, running back LaGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Alan Branch.
American professional and college teams that win a championship have long been invited to the White House for a celebratory visit. In the past, it has been rare but not unprecedented for an athlete to skip the trip.
A number of athletes have voiced their opposition to a multitude of Trump's policies and statements. Most notably, the President has received significant backlash for a controversial executive order to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft are all friends with Trump. The President touted his friendship with Brady repeatedly during his time on the campaign trail.
Here are the reasons each Patriots player has given for skipping the White House visit.
Devin McCourty: "I'm not going to the White House," McCourty wrote in a text message to TIME from the team bus. "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."
Dont'a Hightower: Hightower's reason for going was less overtly political, if political at all.
Branch also did not relay an openly political reason for his choice.
The Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI.