Patriots at White House ... or not ... give us all a civics lesson

Some New England Patriots are refusing to go to the White House to celebrate Super Bowl LI, and critics are not amused. But what they do not understand is that those players are only exercising the freedom that this country gives them.

Everything, it seems, is a big deal these days. This is especially true when football meets politics. Or, more to the point, clashes with it.

Two recent examples of this came when a half-dozen New England Patriots players declared they were not going to the White House with teammates to celebrate their stirring Super Bowl victory. Five of the six are African-American, and several made clear their decision reflected their feelings – or lack thereof – for President Donald Trump.

“I just don’t feel welcome in that house’’ running back LeGarrette Blount said. “I’ll just leave it at that.’’

Meanwhile, Blount’s coach, Bill Belichick, and his teammate, Tom Brady, have both expressed long-standing friendships with the President, one it seems based mostly on available tee times at exclusive golf resorts more than on fiscal or foreign policies. Be that as it may, Brady has been roundly criticized from all sides for not expressing more … or less … of an explanation of his feelings.

The idea that he, or Blount, has to do any such explaining runs counter to our beliefs, of course, but critics on both sides seem to have forgotten that.

One of the many great things about America is that no one has to come when the President calls, although most people do. Some come for the experience; others out of respect for the office and a few for the free golf glove or lapel pin. But if they would rather go fishing, they can.

Try that if Putin calls, and someone will be fishing for you.

This is the Patriots’ fifth trip to the White House, and owner Robert Kraft claims usually about a dozen players don’t show for various reasons, named or unnamed. He then reminded us, “This is America. We’re all free to do whatever is best for us.’’

One of the great privileges we have as Americans is just that. We are pretty much free to say and do what we please. Even when the President calls, you don’t have to answer. Or show up.

Brady didn’t go when President Barack Obama called. Blount, Devin McCourty, Chris Long, Martellus Bennett, Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower aren’t going this time. Neither is a big deal. It’s a civics lesson in action. It’s freedom of choice. Who’s against that?

Maybe Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

This week he warned the NFL that it is “walking on thin ice’’ because Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said a proposed Texas law forcing transgendered people to use bathrooms corresponding with their genetic identities, rather than how they identify personally, might lead to the league steering special events like the Super Bowl elsewhere.

And why’s that? Texas has a right to pass what laws it wants, as long as they are constitutional, and the NFL has a right to take its business where it feels. Again, freedom of choice.

Abbott also claimed he could not count the number of Texans who told him they no longer watch NFL games because Colin Kaepernick and a few other players were “allowed to make a gross political statement’’ – his words – by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. You mean Texans weren’t watching the NFL because a few NFL players exercised one of the rights that makes our country unique and a beacon for the rest of the world? Really?

One assumes two things from this: Gov. Abbott wasn’t a math major, and he never took a civics class. The voters of Texas are free to do as they wish. So is the NFL. Neither is on thin ice unless they are in Green Bay in March. Both are only doing what America is about – which is whatever they want under the law.

Same is true of players who go – or don’t go – to a photo op at the White House. They’re the faces of freedom, whether President Trump sees their faces or not.

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