New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett confirmed he does not plan to attend his team’s forthcoming Super Bowl celebration at The White House with new President Donald Trump.
The outspoken 29-year-old helped the Pats to a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Houston which earned the team the Super Bowl LI title. Traditionally, the winning team attend a reception with the president in Washington DC to celebrate their achievement.
Yet while Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are all considered supporters of Trump, Bennett, who has been critical of the new Commander-in-Chief on social media, reiterated his stance that he would not be joining his New England colleagues at any ceremony.
“I am not going to go,” he said.
“I can elaborate later on in life, right now I am just trying to enjoy this. People know how I feel about it, just follow me on Twitter.”
The Super Bowl’s half-time act Lady Gaga had refrained from a direct protest against Trump at NRG Stadium earlier on Sunday evening, instead promoting messages of inclusivity.
The 30-year-old New Yorker had been seen at Trump Tower protesting in a ‘love trumps hate’ t-shirt when Trump was elected the 45th president of the US back in November, and was given America’s most public stage should she wish to make similar messages on Sunday night as the nation tuned in for Super Bowl LI.
Her messages were more about togetherness, though, as she opened up her performance with a medley of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘This Land is Your Land’, singing lyrics such as “this land is your land, this land is my land, this land was made for you and me” on the stadium’s roof.
She then said: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – a line from the Pledge of Allegiance – before jumping down into the stadium for the rest of her set.
During Super Bowl week NFL players, including Muslim wide-receiver Mohamed Sanu, and the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell had opted not to discuss Trump’s enforcement of the much-criticised travel ban on citizens and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries last month.
His vice-president Mike Pence was in the stadium to witness the game, while Trump watched on television and may therefore have seen a number of adverts that echoed the messages from Lady Gaga’s set.
Airbnb’s commercial featured a number of faces from various backgrounds with the message “We believe, no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept. #weaccept”.
Meanwhile, Coca Cola’s ‘Together is Beautiful’ advert, a rerun from the 2014 Super Bowl, featured various voices singing ‘America is Beautiful’ in several languages.
Trump did see his Super Bowl selection come in as the New England Patriots won, though they did so against the odds having overturned a 25-point deficit.
“I like Bob Kraft, I like coach Belichick and Tom Brady is my friend,” he had said in his pre-Super Bowl address to the game’s broadcasters Fox.
“They’re taking a lot of heat (for supporting the president) but they’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it.
“I think they’re going to do very well. Tom’s a winner. The coach is a great coach. I think the other team is fantastic, (Matt Ryan) turned out to be a good quarterback but there’s less pressure on the Patriots because they’ve been there. Once you’ve won, once you’ve done it – and they’ve done it – there’s a lot less pressure so we’ll see what happens. You have to stick up for your friends, right?
“I hate to make predictions. I don’t even know the odds, I guess it’s pretty even with two great teams, pretty even, so I’ll say the Patriots will win, by eight points. I shouldn’t be doing those things but that’s okay. I need no data on that.”
Though his margin of victory was incorrect, the President later took to Twitter to congratulate the Patriots on their fifth Super Bowl triumph.
“What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!” he said.