Stateside: Patriots win Super Bowl and take out booby prize

By Kris Shannon

LeGarrette Blount (left) has said he doesn't want to visit the White House. Photo / Supplied
LeGarrette Blount (left) has said he doesn't want to visit the White House. Photo / Supplied

If a team wins the Super Bowl and fails to show up for the traditional trip to the White House, did they really win the Super Bowl at all? That deeply philosophical question may soon be asked about the New England Patriots, whose relationship with President Trump seems rather complicated.

The Pats, as you may remember, have deep ties to the current administration, with owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all counting Trump as a personal friend.

But after their incredible Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, several players have revealed that sentiment doesn't quite extend throughout the locker room.

Which might soon be a problem. One of the ostensible honours after winning a championship in the United States, you see, has long been a reception with the sitting president at the White House, a chance for a photo opportunity with the most powerful man in the world, and, in Barack Obama's days, an opportunity to be on the receiving end of a few jokes.

But the convivial atmosphere in which the 43rd president hosted winning teams seems rather hard to imagine with the new man in charge, even if, by a quirk of fate, the first team to book such a visit is one featuring some of his most well-known sporting supporters.

So to avoid having to awkwardly stand by a president whose policies they oppose, several Patriots have already opted out of a hypothetical White House tour. At last count, six players had made verbal commitment to skip the trip: defensive tackle Alan Branch, running back LeGarrette Blount, tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive back Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and defensive lineman Chris Long.

The raft of withdrawals could empower more players to follow and has sparked some to wonder whether the Trump administration will even extend an invite. After all, as we all know after the kerfuffle over crowd sizes at his inauguration, there's little the president likes less than the bad optics of a photo featuring fewer people than expected.

The players involved, of course, won't be worried about that, and Bennett said he also wasn't concerned about what his owner would think about the stance. As McCourty told told Time a day after lifting the Lombardi Trophy, some of the Super Bowl champions simply don't feel like they would be welcomed by Trump.

"Basic reason for me is I don't feel accepted in the White House," McCourty said. "With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won't."

No prizes for guessing the identity of those certain people who would feel accepted. Brady, who said before the election it "would be great" if Trump became president, would be sure to receive a personal invitation even if the rest of the roster is ignored.

Which would be a nice experience for Brady, given he skipped the Patriots' visit to Obama's White House the last time they won the Super Bowl. A "prior family commitment", apparently.

Charles Oakley vs the New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are one team who are probably safe when it comes to the moral dilemma of visiting President Trump, given they're again shuffling from one shambles to the next this NBA season.

The once-proud franchise reached a new, shambolic low on Thursday (NZT), turning what was another regulation defeat into a circus that soon occupied the front pages of New York's tabloids.

Charles Oakley is regarded as a Knicks legend, having played a decade for the franchise the last time they were any good. He was also regarded as one of the toughest men in the NBA and, at 53, is still an imposing presence.

In short, he's probably not the man to piss off and evict from the stands, but that's exactly what the the Knicks inflicted on the fan favourite early in a game against the Clippers, sparking an unseemly shoving match that eventually saw Oakley arrested and charged with assault.

According to observers nearby, Oakley might have been making his displeasure known with team owner James Dolan, who was sitting courtside and probably deserved any abuse he received.

According to the team, Oakley "behaved in a highly inappropriate manner". And according to Oakley himself, he did nothing of the sort.

"I didn't say anything to [Dolan]," he told the New York Daily News. "They came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. I bought the ticket. I said why do you guys keep staring at me. Then they asked me to leave. And I said I'm not leaving"

There was no surprise in whose side the fans took but, for ownership, the brouhaha at least distracted from the fact the Knicks are 22-32 and look set for another forgettable season.

- NZ Herald

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