Tags: robert kraft | white house | visit | players

Robert Kraft: White House Visit Being Skipped by Players is Normal

Image: Robert Kraft: White House Visit Being Skipped by Players is Normal

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft waves to the crowd during a Super Bowl victory parade on Feb. 7, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Michael J. Ivins/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Feb 2017 10:59 AM

Robert Kraft downplayed a White House visit by the New England Patriots this year that could be missing several players from the Super Bowl championship team, telling the "Today" show Monday that it was not anything out of the ordinary.

The Patriots owner, who has had a long friendship with President Donald Trump, said other players have missed the White House trip throughout the years, according to "Today."

"Every time we've had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don't go,'' Kraft said on "Today." "This is the first time it's gotten any media attention. Some of the players have the privilege of going in college because they're on national championship teams, (and) others have family commitments.

"This is America, we're all free to do whatever's best for us, and we're just privileged to be in a position to be going," added Kraft, who was with the president and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at dinner Friday night at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk wrote that Patriot players Devin McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Chris Long, Dont'a Hightower, Alan Branch, and LeGarrette Blount have said they will not make the trip to the White House when the team is invited there.

New England running back James White, who scored the winning touchdown in the team's dramatic overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, said on SiriusXM NFL Radio last week that he had not decided yet if he would attend, according to Sporting News.

If the players don't attend as promised, they would hardly be the first to do so. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady skipped the White House visit two years ago, citing a scheduling conflict, wrote "Today." Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Matt Birk skipped in 2013 because he disagreed with President Barack Obama's pro-choice stance, while Steelers linebacker James Harrison stayed home in 2006 and 2009, noted "Today."

Then Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas cited politics in skipping the NHL champion's trip in 2012 during the Obama administration, NHL.com noted.

ESPN wrote that the tradition of sports teams visiting the White House dates to at least Aug. 30, 1865, when President Andrew Johnson welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl champions to visit the White House, when they joined World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates in a dual ceremony with President Jimmy Carter in February, 1980, ESPN said.

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Robert Kraft downplayed a White House visit by the New England Patriots this year that could be missing several players from the Super Bowl championship team.
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Tuesday, 14 Feb 2017 10:59 AM
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