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20 April 2017, 10:22 | Gladys Abbott
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez
The New England Patriots visited the White House Wednesday, meeting President Donald Trump to celebrate their Super Bowl LI championship.
A notable absence was quarterback Tom Brady, who made a morning announcement citing "family matters to attend to".
Similarly, a White House official toldCNN the comparisons were "apples to oranges" and suggested comparing attendance and media coverage from the Patriots' visits during the Bush administration.
For as long as most people can remember, championship sports teams have received invitations to the White House on behalf of whichever USA president happened to be in office at the time. He had a personal family matter to attend to, he told ESPN's Mike Reiss. Brady did not elaborate on the family issue.
According to a tweet from the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Brady's mother has been battling cancer since before the Super Bowl, and the star QB will be spending time with her.
Players who stayed away included Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Devin McCourty and Chris Long. The boycott is attributed to Donald Trump being elected president.
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In perhaps the most predictable occurrence of the afternoon, tight end Rob Gronkowski was up to his usual antics during the visit. The team has not officially commented on this development. Since Tom Brady wasn't there to supervise Gronk, the Big Gronkowski chose to wander off on his own and crash Sean Spicer's White House press briefing.
Trump went on to praise Patriots owner Robert Kraft for guiding the franchise to its fifth Super Bowl title since 2002.
The organization said 34 players visited the White House Wednesday.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed he wrote Trump a letter of support before the election, but said it was personal and not politically driven.
Spicer replied: "I think I got this, but thank you". "With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won't", he said.
President Trump made several mentions of specific players during his speech, including Danny Amendola (for his 4th down conversion), Trey Flowers (for his epic sack) and Julian Edelman (for his incredible catch), along with Marcus Cannon, Matt Slater, Nate Ebner and Malcolm Mitchell.
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