BOSTON (CBS) — While some of their key players were missing, the New England Patriots became the first championship team to be honored by President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
Tom Brady, citing family reasons, highlighted the list of players who did not attend Wednesday’s ceremony on the South Lawn, but 34 members of the team and over 115 members of the Patriots staff made the trip. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft, whose personal relationships with President Trump has been heavily reported on over the last year, were front and center as the President honored the Super Bowl LI Champs.
The Patriots gave President Trump his own Patriots jersey, and a Super Bowl LI helmet.
“I’ve had the great privileged to be here several times, but this one, th way we were treated the opportunity to be in the Oval Office and be with the President, and see the inside of the White House, has just been fabulous,” Belichick said of Wednesday’s visit. “As a team, the opportunity and privilege of coming to the White House is one of the great things about winning the Super Bowl.”
“What a great day it is to be with all of our friends at the White House. We celebrate the Super Bowl champion Patriots –champions, period — and their historic win,” Trump started.
The President praised the Patriots for being supporters of the military and veterans, pointing out that seven wounded veterans from the Walter Reed Military Medical Center were also in attendance for Wednesday’s ceremonies.
“The New England Patriots are big supporters of our military and America’s veterans,” said Trump, highlighting long snapper Joe Cardona, who serves in the Navy reserves.
“What a group of champions, all of them, and I want to commend [Robert Kraft] on building an incredible group of champions,” said Trump, referring to Kraft as simply “Bob.”
“No team has been this good for this long,” added Trump.
Trump said Belichick is a “special man,” adding the “Patriot Way” starts with the head coach.
“This Super Bowl victory was a complete team effort, and that’s the beauty of what they do. They win as a team,” President Trump said of their comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. “With the pundits saying you couldn’t do it, you pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all-time.”
President Trump highlighted big plays by Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola (who did not attend but thanked President Trump for the mention on Twitter) and Trey Flowers during the Super Bowl, but did not mention Brady’s name during the ceremony.
Brady also skipped the Patriots’ visit to the White House in 2015 following their Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Patriots safety Devin McCourty, defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker Dont’a Hightower all skipped the trip on Wednesday, as did free agent running back LeGarrette Blount. McCourty and Blount both cited political reasons, as did former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (now with the Green Bay Packers) and defensive end Chris Long (now on the Philadelphia Eagles).
For Belichick and Kraft, this was their fifth trip to the White House with the Patriots.