Champion Athletes Protesting Trump — Better Get Used To It

Within 24 hours after the New England Patriots shocked the Atlanta Falcons with their historic Super Bowl LI comeback on Sunday, two Patriot players, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive back Devin McCourty, already confirmed that they will not be visiting Donald Trump at the White House. Since then, other players including running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive lineman Chris Long have also said they were not going. Expect for these players to be the first of many championship-winning athletes across the sports landscape to turn down an invitation to the White House from this administration.

This will be an ongoing trend and the extent of it, I predict, will be “unpresidented“, *ahem*, unprecedented in modern presidential history. After the hateful, bigoted campaign Trump ran as a candidate and the similarly objectionable and offensive policies he is trying to enact as president, including the recent travel ban executive order, any future protest by athletes should come as no surprise. And the fact that Bennett and McCourty were the first two Patriots players to take this stand should not surprise anyone either, considering they have been vocal about issues of racial and social justice throughout this season.

It took the New England tight end just a little more than an hour after the Super Bowl ended to tell reporter Brandon George his plans to not go to the White House

McCourty followed suit a number of hours later, telling TIME, “I’m not going to the White House” in a 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.”

It will be seen if any more Patriots skip the trip to the White House, but after hearing how many big NBA names have spoken out against Trump since he was elected, there will be others. 

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert in late November already said he wasn’t going to go visit Trump’s White House if the Cavs win the NBA Finals this June. Golden State Warriors forward David West said Trump “is the complete opposite” of what he wants to teach kids. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has spoken out against the immigration ban executive order and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been an outspoken critic of Trump and “his act” for months.  

What Bennett, McCourty and all these big-name NBA personalities have seen from Trump’s behavior and rhetoric is that he views a variety of ethnic groups as monoliths. When Trump speaks about Blacks and Latinos, he almost solely talks about poverty, crime and how these racial and ethnic groups are “living in hell.” He uses damaging stereotypes of people of color to rile up his fervent white supremacist supporters who are constantly looking to other-ize these communities.

Among the many examples of this was a tweet of his from November 2015. Trump sent out this patently false graphic with phony baloney stats that were said to have come from a non-existent “Crime Statistics Bureau.”

As Politifact points out, every single one of these statistics are wrong, with the most egregious fallacy being the “Whites Killed By Blacks” statistic. That 81 percent number is about 5.4 times greater than the actual stat. Tweets like these from the then-presidential candidate weren’t so much dog whistles as they were foghorns to his batch of radical followers.

More recently, Trump butchered his opening speech for Black History Month, making it sound as if Frederick Douglass was still alive. He then somehow inserted himself into a sorry speech, speaking on which media outlets do and do not treat him nicely.

If this wasn’t a reality and he wasn’t the president, then this statement would be hilarious, but it is and he is, so it’s not. Not only is he demonstrating and touting an anti-intellectualism, a blatant fake-it-til-you-make-it approach, he doesn’t even have the respect and self-restraint to not speak about himself when honoring Black American heroes.

No matter how many photo-ops he wants to do with Kanye or Ray Lewis, Trump has demonstrated who he is time, after time, after time. And any athlete, at the college or professional level, who is paying attention and grossly offended by his words and actions over the past number of years will take that into account before making their decision to attend or not attend the White House.

Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty and others have opened the flood gates now who’s going to be next?

*This article has been updated to reflect the growing number of Patriots players who said they will not be going to the White House*

Back to top