Feb. 11, 2017
Two dozen members of the New England Patriots still haven’t said whether they’ll be attending a celebration with President Donald Trump at the White House, an annual victory party that has become a tense political standoff.
Six Patriots are skipping the traditional event, with one citing Trump’s “prejudices” as the reason he’s boycotting. And the split over the Super Bowl party is the latest mark of how little is safe from the all-encompassing politics of America in the Trump era, in which everyone from linebackers to mainstream retail brands feel pressure to choose sides.
Only one Patriot has publicly committed to attending the event. Long snapper Joe Cardona, who told BuzzFeed News he’s going in part in his capacity as “a government employee myself” — a naval officer.
“As an American and a patriotic person, [meeting a president] is special every single time, whether you agree with their policies or not,” Cardona said, adding that he has no quarrel with his teammates who are choosing to skip the meeting.
“I respect every single one of them tremendously,” he said. “These are really great guys, smart guys that have a diversity of opinion outside of football. It’s really special to see them exercising that right as Americans.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, a Trump friend who skipped the Patriots’ April, 2015 celebration with Obama citing a family commitment, did not respond to a question sent to the assistant of his agent, Don Yee, about whether he will attend this year.
BuzzFeed News contacted 25 Patriots players whose contact information was accessible — through agents, open Twitter DMs, publicly available telephone numbers, or email — to ask whether they would attend the traditional celebration. Of that group, 21 did not respond to the inquiry; two players’ representatives and one player avoided a definitive answer about attending; and Cardona said he would go.
Cristina Alor, a representative for Rob Gronkowski — a tight end who is one of the team’s most popular players — told BuzzFeed News on Friday that he “doesn’t have a comment as of right now.”
And Brandon Bolden’s agent, Joseph Behar, said he is under the impression the running back will visit the White House. “He hasn’t mentioned anything to us regarding that topic,” said the agent, who didn’t reply when BuzzFeed News asked for an interview with Bolden.
And offensive tackle Nate Solder told BuzzFeed News on Friday, “I’m not interested in talking thanks.”