New England Patriots Return to White House A Decade Later


Apr 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; President Barack Obama (M) poses between New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (L) and Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R), along with team members during a ceremony honoring the 2014 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots on the South Lawn at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has changed since the last time the New England Patriots visited the White House. George W. Bush had just defeated John Kerry for his second term in office and only one player from the 2014 Patriots was on the roster then – quarterback Tom Brady. But some things have stayed the same. The four Vince Lombardi trophies on display at the White House yesterday were a stark reminder of the consistency of excellence the Patriots organization has enjoyed since the turn of the century.

On a breezy day in Washington the Patriots were celebrated by not just their President, but also a large contingent of New England’s congressional delegation. Present to toast the world champion Patriots on Thursday were Representatives Jim McGovern, Joe Kennedy, and Seth Moulton as well as Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. Also on hand was Secretary of State John Kerry, who both President Obama and head coach Bill Belichick referenced in their remarks

But for all the Patriots in attendance yesterday at the White House, it was the president who stole the show. “All I asked is that Gronk keep his shirt on”, the president joked after lamenting that he’d hoped to see his Chicago Bears at the White House before his second term expires. The president lauded both Julian Edelman and Malcolm Butler by name after heaping praise on coach Bill Belichick, owner Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots organization. “The Patriots organization is as good an organization as there’s ever been in professional sports”, the president asserted to cheers from the small crowd gathered on the White House’ South Lawn.

Humor – or at least attempts thereof – was not forgotten on the day. “I usually tell a lot of jokes at things like this, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that eleven out of twelve of them would fall flat”, the president said in reference to the ongoing deflategate scandal. “I think we all know that story was blown way out of proportion”, he said in an attempt to soften the blow. But the Patriots hit back at the president – playfully – later in the day. When asked if he’d been doing any drinking at the White House, tight end Rob Gronkowski suggested that perhaps a few drinks led to the President’s deflategate joke. “Maybe the President was getting wasted, from his Deflate joke,” said a smiling Gronkowski. “We’re still wondering as an organization about that, right?”

As is customary, the team presented President Obama with a number 44 Patriots away jersey, the same jersey the team wore during the Super Bowl. In addition, owner Robert Kraft presented the president with a helmet signed by every member of the team.

The day was not without its intrigue. While many wondered if Brady’s absence represented some kind of political statement similar to that previously made by former Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas, coach Bill Belichick made his own statement. It wasn’t anything Belichick said, but rather what he was wearing: an Armenian flag lapel pin. On a day when the president – like so many presidents before him – refused to recognize mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide, the Patriots’ coach apparently wanted to send his message of disapproval. It’s no small irony that the coach of so few words made the biggest statement of the day with no words at all. For the president, it was just another day at the White House.