Five New England Patriots players are protesting their team's visit to the White House this year, where the president — now Donald Trump — traditionally congratulates major sports champions.
Quarterback Tom Brady is not one of those players. In an interview with NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk, the 39-year-old Super Bowl MVP and Trump pal went so far as to claim that the visit wasn't even about politics.
"Putting politics aside, it never was a political thing," Brady said. "At least, it never was to me. It meant you won a championship and you got to experience something cool with your team, with your teammates. Everyone has their own choice."
It's convenient that the person most outspoken about how nonpolitical a visit to Trump's White House would be is the person least likely to be impacted by Trump's politics. For the players doing the protesting, however, few things are more political than palling around with the most openly bigoted president in recent memory.
Brady's choice is at least partly informed by the fact that he's friends with Trump. In September 2015, he was filmed with Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker, while Trump has frequently referred to Brady, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft as his "friends."
But it's also a byproduct of Brady's race. Where his five dissenting teammates — four of whom are black — are avoiding the trip expressly because Trump is a bigot, Brady, a wealthy white man, is unlikely to be materially impacted by the president's bigotry — nor has he expressed much sympathy for those who are.
Trump has already marked his first three weeks in office by fulfilling some of his most xenophobic campaign promises. He has signed executive orders banning travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries, and pushed for more aggressive crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, resulting in the arrests of 680 people last week alone. He has also publicly toyed with the idea of raiding Chicago with federal law enforcement. A staggering amount of what he's done so far, and implied he'll do, is aggressively hostile toward people of color.
Perhaps more than ever, visiting the White House to be congratulated by this man is a tacit endorsement of his politics — whether Brady wants to admit it or not. And just because the quarterback can ignore the trip's political implications doesn't mean his black teammates and their allies have the same luxury.