President Donald Trump welcomed the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to the White House Wednesday, along with his longtime friend and Patriots owner, Robert Kraft.
“They’ve won more division titles, conference championships, and Super Bowl wins than any other team. No team has been this good for this long,” the president said.
Trump took the opportunity to criticize television commentators, saying during the Super Bowl, “The pundits — good old pundits — boy, they’re wrong a lot, aren’t they? Saying you couldn’t do it; the game was over … You pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time.”
Kraft compared the comeback and long odds to Trump’s campaign for the presidency, saying in the primaries Trump “faced odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter. He persevered to become the 45th president of the United States.” Kraft called the president “a very good friend of mine for over 25 years,” and “as mentally tough and hard-working as anybody I know.”
The president praised the “culture dedicated to winning” that coach Bill Belichick created in the Patriots organization. He also harkened back to the letter Belichick sent him during the campaign, which he read aloud at a campaign rally.
Not mentioned by Trump were the many absent players.
Star quarterback Tom Brady missed the event, citing “family matters.” Others used their absence as an intentional protest, voicing opposition to the administration.
“I have three daughters,” defensive lineman Alan Branch told the Boston Globe, “I wouldn’t spend time away from my family to shake the hand of a guy I wouldn’t want to meet with or talk to.”
“(When) my son grows up — and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is — I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey Dad, why’d you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?’” defensive end Chris Long said in a Green Stripe News video earlier this week.
Also not addressed in the ceremony was the morning news of former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez’s suicide. He was serving time in a maximum security prison for a 2015 murder conviction.
The president accepted gifts from Kraft and Belichick during the ceremony, a personalized No. 45 Patriots jersey and a team helmet matching the ones used during the Super Bowl.
No lawmakers attended the White House event.
Earlier in the day, Patriots tight end and class clown Rob Gronkowski crashed White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s media briefing, offering to help.