The New England Patriots, Super Bowl champions, could not have been a more perfect guest for President Donald Trump’s first ceremonial visit from a national championship team.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady are all pals of Trump’s from his gaudy days as a celebrity TV figure, and they showed support for his presidential campaign last season.
While Brady and several other Patriots skipped the White House trip — Brady citing vague personal reasons, less-heralded stars like Devin McCourty and Alan Branch openly criticizing Trump’s misogyny and racism — most of the team and staff showed up to grin as the president likened his own victory over Hillary Clinton to the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.
Among the attendees: Jacoby Brissett, the team’s third-string quarterback, who guided the Patriots to two wins in three games early in the season with Brady suspended and second-stringer Jimmy Garropolo hurt. It is unusual for any third-string QB to make a meaningful contribution to a Super Bowl championship season; Brissett did so as the first black man to ever start at quarterback in the 57-year history of the New England Patriots.
He made his reasons for attending the team trip to Washington clear in an Instagram post late Friday: Brissett wanted to see the building where America’s first black president and First Family had lived for eight years, beginning when the quarterback was still in high school.
At the president’s house on Wednesday, Brissett sought out a picture of Barack Obama signing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first law of his presidency. He posed next to the framed photograph, tagged Obama on Instagram, and opened up.
“Dear Big O, I am writing you this letter to say thank you,” Brissett began. “Honestly, I don’t know enough about politics to judge what was good or bad, but I want you to know that when you said ‘Yes We Can’ — a young man dreaming a dream from rough circumstances in Florida heard you.”
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Brissett is a black quarterback in a sport where African-American men are a majority of the workforce but less commonly entrusted with the keys to an offense. Black men who play under center have always faced racialized treatment from the sport’s fans, teams, and media professionals alike.
“You broke a barrier and a stereotype proving not every minority has to use a ball to make a way,” Brissett went on in his letter. “As I prepare for the honor of visiting the White House, I will be there as a Super Bowl Champion — and I will think of you, mainly because the White House is a different, and better place because you lived there.”
The long, heartfelt note covers a lot of ground, before ending with the kind of crack Obama himself was notoriously fond of making.
“P.S,” Brissett wrote, “Holla at me to help you with your broke jump shot.”