New England Patriots Visit White House Hours After Aaron Hernandez's Suicide in Prison
Tight end Rob Gronkowski also crashed the White House daily press briefing.
President Donald Trump felt a moment of football glory as he welcomed the 2017 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to the White House on Wednesday.
"What a group of champions, all of them," the president said. "Five Super Bowl victories since 2002, really unbelievable. No team has been this good for this long."
The team, which beat the Atlanta Falcons to win the Super Bowl LI in February, visited the president just hours after their disgraced former teammate and convicted killer Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell.
The former NFL star was serving a life sentence for murder. There has been speculation that the Patriots' D.C. visit may have been the final straw.
"It could not have been easy for Aaron Hernandez to see," Boston Globe sports reporter Ben Volin told Inside Edition. "Aaron Hernandez is sitting there in prison watching the Super Bowl… and here he is sitting in an 8 by 10 cell."
Noticeably absent from the White House event was Super Bowl MVP and star quarterback Tom Brady.
"I am unable to attend today's ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters," Brady said in a statement earlier Wednesday. "Hopefully, if we accomplish the goal of winning a championship in the future years, we will back on the South Lawn again soon."
He is reportedly spending the day with his mother, who has been battling cancer for the past year.
WFAN's Evan Roberts said: "I really do think that meeting the president to Tom Brady is not that exciting. He’s friends with the president."
At least six Patriots players boycotted the White House ceremony.
"I don't believe in excluding other people," free safety Devin McCourty explained in a video released at the end of last week. "Right away, I knew I wasn't going because it was something I thought about before we'd even won the game."
Defensive end Chris Long added that he didn't want his son to grow up and ask him, "Hey, Dad, why did you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?"
But other members of the team had a bit of fun during the visit, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who crashed Press Secretary Sean Spicer's daily press briefing.
"You need some help?" he asked Spicer.
As the press laughed, Spicer told him, "I think I got this, but thank you."
"Are you sure?" Gronkowski asked. He added, "I like you," before finally exiting the stage.
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