Martellus Bennett & Devin McCourty Decline White House Invite

Martellus Bennett & Devin McCourty

On Monday, Super Bowl champion and Patriots defensive end Devin McCourty confirmed that he would not accept the customary White House invite for winners of pro football’s biggest game, citing political opposition to President Donald Trump.

“I’m not going to the White House,” McCourty told TIME via text message. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”

McCourty is the second Patriots player to take this stance. Tight end Martellus Bennett told reporters shortly after their historic come-from-behind victory on Sunday that he would not attend any ceremony at the White House. When pressed about why, Bennett urged people to check out his social media feed, which includes statements in opposition to Trump policies like the immigration ban that was imposed on seven Muslim-majority countries before being halted by a federal judge Friday.

It is perhaps not surprising that McCourty and Bennett would be united in their opposition to Trump. They were the only two Patriots players to raise their fists in silent protest while the National Anthem played during the regular NFL season. The act was in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s similar demonstration, meant to raise awareness about police brutality and racial inequality.

On Monday, in an interview ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Bennett, now a free agent, further explained why he would sit out a White House visit. While he said he didn’t begrudge any of his teammates for going, his decision was “a personal belief and a personal thing for me.”

“Is it a big deal? I think so,” he said. “I think for the people I represent and the culture I represent, it’s huge.”

So far, no other Patriots players have said they will also refuse a White House invitation. And given their friendly relationships, it’s highly unlikely that the team’s owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and MVP quarterback Tom Brady will skip the ceremony. However, Brady did snub President Obama after the team won the Super Bowl in 2015.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Adam Howard