Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft have all been prominently associated with President Donald Trump, and his affiliation with Patriots team leadership has been a story dating back to September 2015 when a Make America Great Again hat was spotted in Brady’s locker.
Nevertheless, since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, a string of players have publicly announced they will not visit the White House when Trump honors the team. As the Washington Post noted, this list includes Martellus Bennett, Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower, LeGarrette Bount, Chris Long and Devin McCourty. The latter two explained their rationale in this video, released Friday:
“For me it was simple. I don’t believe in excluding other people,” McCourty said. “Right away I knew I wasn’t going because it was something I thought about before we even won the game.
Added Chris Long: “My son grows up, and I believe the legacy of our President is gonna be what it is. I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey Dad, why did you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?'”
The video, which also features several die-hard Patriots fans strenuously opposed to Trump, was created by Patrice Lumumba Jones. As VP of Global Creative at Pearson, a large education publishing firm, Jones markets learning technology (the video was a self-financed side project, not affiliated with his employer). His younger brother is ESPN personality Bomani Jones. The video has been tweeted by NFL reporters Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer, and picked up by numerous outlets, including Sporting News, the Washington Post and USA Today.
“I wanted to do this project because I felt that the election of Trump was the most devastating political event of my lifetime, and I needed to find a way to resist other than ripping off hot takes on Facebook,” Patrice Jones tells The Big Lead.
Jones says that when he originally conceived the project a couple months ago he didn’t think he needed players, but people kept telling him it would be great if he did. His first thought was outspoken tight end Martellus Bennett (now a member of the Packers), but he didn’t know how to reach him.
Bomani Jones helped put his brother in touch with Chris Long (who left New England for Philadelphia in free agency this offseason). Patrice says Long was initially hesitant to participate because he did not want to infer he was representing all of the Patriots, but after they communicated about it, Long became confident he would not be mis-characterized. He also helped land McCourty for the video.
It’s been said that players should not skip the White House trip because face time with the sitting president, no matter how one feels about him, could be a platform to effect change. However, Jones says that McCourty and Long were of the belief that the excursion essentially amounts to a glorified photo op, and there’s no way to effectively advocate policy.
While outsiders might speculate on whether opposition could have been stifled for fear of reprisal from team leadership, Jones tells TBL that the players told him that politics and Trump were openly discussed in the Patriots’ locker room during the season. This apparently open discourse clearly did not manifest in any fissure that affected the team’s performance on the field.
Jones was particularly proud in the video of Patriots fans who publicly voiced their opposition to Trump, because by making their views public they possibly risked compromising their livelihood and/or personal relationships.
It’s not an unfounded fear. Last year, the author Brad Herzog (who I know a little bit through Camp Nebagamon, a boys’ summer camp in northern Wisconsin) and his wife, Amy, lost a job they’d held for 17 summers as spokespeople for the RV industry. The reason for their dismissal was that they had crowdfunded an illustrated, satirical children’s book entitled D is for Dump Trump. One blogger griped about the book, and the RV association explained their decision to cut ties with the couple by saying, in part, that their “campaign to merchandise a political book that does not meet the nonpartisan position of our organization distracted from our core value of political neutrality.”
While in many circles it may not seem like much is controversial about what Long, McCourty and the fans say in this video, it is not without a degree of personal risk.