Update 3: As it stands, six Patriots will not be visiting the White Hosue: Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower. Robert Kraft has responded.
UPDATE 2: Running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Alan Branch have also stated they will not be going to the White House. That brings the total number of Patriots skipping the White House visit to six.
UPDATE: Patriots defensive end Chris Long has said he plans to skip the White House visit as well. Responding to an open letter written by Chuck Modiano of the New York Daily News, Long tweeted, "Oh Chuck. Planned on skipping, hadn't been asked. Don't need an open letter explaining my own words to me. Not *joining* anyone. My call."
Add Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower's name to the list of New England Patriots players that won't be visiting President Donald Trump at the White House to celebrate the team's Super Bowl 51 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Unlike teammates Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, however, Hightower says his reasons aren't so much for protest sake, but because he's "been there, done that," according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.
Hightower – who won his first championship ring with New England in the team's Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks, gets set to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason. He told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "I love what I have in New England."
While his reasoning doesn't sound much like teammates McCourty or Bennett, who were both very clear as to why they were skipping the ceremony, Hightower is still the latest in what could be a growing number of Patriots players who will give some excuse as to why they're not going to the White House.
McCourty explained his decision for not visiting was, "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." Bennett took to Twitter not long after the news broke to post a series of enlightening and inspiring tweets, including his plans to start publishing his own books.
When you look at me what do you see? I know you wanna ask me what sport I play. I mean what else could I possibly be besides an athlete.— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 7, 2017
While Hightower not going to the White House might very well not be politically motivated, but it fits into the ongoing narrative of a stark contrast between one group of members within the Patriots franchise and their political beliefs and ties, and other members and fans who hold opposing beliefs. Whether or not Hightower fits into that discussion is unclear, but players don't often turn down a chance to visit the president unless it's out of protest.
Leading up the Super Bowl, much was made of the ties quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Bob Kraft have to Trump. Many fans were vocal about supporting the Atlanta Falcons based largely on those connections, while some Patriots fans decided to get charitable and donate to nonprofits like the NAACP and ACLU whenever their team scored.
Oh Chuck. Planned on skipping, hadn't been asked. Don't need an open letter explaining my own words to me. Not *joining* anyone. My call. https://t.co/XWo9x2XT40— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) February 9, 2017