Patriots player brilliantly defends decision to skip visit to Trump’s White House

“I’m skipping a photo op, not a congressional hearing.”

New England Patriots Chris Long #95 is interviewed on the field after a win against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gregory Payan
New England Patriots Chris Long #95 is interviewed on the field after a win against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gregory Payan

Will they or won’t they visit the White House?

This has been the question hanging over the heads of every single New England Patriots player since the team won the Super Bowl earlier this month.

(Okay, with the exception of Tom Brady — his answer was obvious.)

Since Martellus Bennett announced, moments after winning the championship, that he wouldn’t be partaking in the customary visit to the White House with his team, at least five of his teammates have followed suit.

One of those teammates, defensive end Chris Long, took to Twitter on Thursday to respond to the many criticisms he’s received from fans over the past week.

His tweetstorm began after he received the message, “Be a man and go to the White House. True fan of yours since Cavs. Be tolerant not intolerant.”

Long responded, “Sorry dude. I appreciate your support of me as a football player, but I just don’t get this tweet.”

Long initially announced his decision to skip the White House visit after Chuck Modiano wrote an open letter to the defensive end in the New York Daily News, saying that Long needs to “stand up to Trump with [his] Patriots teammates.”

It turns out, Long didn’t need convincing.

“Oh Chuck. Planned on skipping, hadn’t been asked,” he responded on Twitter. “Don’t need an open letter explaining my own words to me. Not *joining* anyone. My call.”

The reason Modiano singled out Long in this way is because Long was one of the few white NFL players to stick up for Colin Kaepernick and other black players in the league who took a knee or raised a first during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality in America.

“I support my peers in exercising their right to protest. This is a wonderful country, and I think everyone agrees on that, but there are things in our country that can improve,” Long told ESPN’s Russillo & Kannell last fall. “I don’t think that by acknowledging as a white male that America isn’t the same for me, maybe, as it is for everybody, the same great place, that we’re complicit in the problem or that we’re saying America isn’t a great place.”

Long, who runs the charity WaterBoys, which focuses on providing clean, safe and sustainable water access to rural communities in East Africa, has a long record of supporting American troops. So he doesn’t take kindly to people saying that he’s anti-military because he won’t visit Trump’s White House.

He also had no patience for those who dismissed this as a partisan issue, or who said that he simply “hates white people” — after all, he named his adorable son, who is also white, after “outlaw country singer” Waylon Jennings, who is, well, very white.

So far, in addition to Long and Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower have announced that they will skip the ceremonial White House visit this year too. Not all of them have elaborated on the reasons for their decision, though Blount has said he doesn’t “feel welcome” in the house.

With his response on Thursday, Long—the only white player so far to announce he is skipping the trip—pulled back the curtain at what athletes face when they stand up for social or political issues. (It’s highly likely his black teammates are getting even more abuse from fans.)

Last fall, Long said he has learned a lot about social issues by listening to his teammates throughout his football career.

“I play in a league that’s 70 percent black and my peers, guys I come to work with, guys I respect who are very socially aware and are intellectual guys,” he said. “If they identify something that they think is worth putting their reputations on the line, creating controversy, I’m going to listen to those guys.”