The Super Bowl had unexpected political affiliations this year. Tom Brady made it clear early in the season that he supported Donald Trump, and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and Owner Robert Kraft also made it known that they are friendly with and fond of President Orange. Despite Massachusetts’ liberal leanings, football’s biggest game was boiled down — somewhat unfairly — to Trump’s team, the Patriots, versus everyone else’s team, the Falcons.
In light of the Patriots’ win, the victors’ ceremonial visit to the White House entered the spotlight. In most major professional and college leagues, the championship-winning team will travel to Washington D.C. to meet the current president for a photo op, but players often times will skip out on the visit. For example, when the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2015, Tom Brady decided not to take the trip to meet former president Barack Obama. He claimed that he was too busy, though photos later surfaced of Brady taking a trip to a New York City Apple store around the same time as the team’s White House visit.
With the extreme political climate, it’s not surprising that some Patriots players have already sworn off visiting the White House, including tight end Martellus Bennett. He announced his decision immediately after the Super Bowl, specifically citing his dislike of Trump. Five other players joined Bennett in announcing their absence from the White House trip.
It makes perfect sense to boycott visiting Trump as protest, yet players can take it a step further. Instead of merely hanging back, players should visit Obama — who will be setting up camp in D.C. in the near future — on the same day of the official White House trip. The former president has more of a claim to run the country than the current commander in chief, given the numerous question marks surrounding Trump’s rise to power. Trump’s illegitimacy offers a fairly easy argument for choosing to visit Obama instead, especially for an event as inconsequential as a photo op.
The ramifications of meeting with the former president would be far from inconsequential, as Trump’s thin skin and hyper-reactionary tendencies are best exposed when he feels a lack of acceptance, appreciation or love. As an opponent to the racist and misogynistic despot, few things are as satisfying as exposing Trump’s deep insecurities and weaknesses, especially considering how they continuously undermine his comically tough facade. A champion athlete passing up a meeting with Trump to see Obama instead would send POTUS into a tailspin.
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A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 21 print edition. Email Ethan Sapienza at [email protected]