The White House is traditionally hosting the champions of the country’s biggest sports leagues each year. The NFL is usually no exception, but it appears as if it is on its way to becoming one: as ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss pointed out in his Quick-Hit Thoughts column on Sunday, the New England Patriots are unlikely to visit this year following their victory in Super Bowl 53 over the Los Angeles Rams.
Traditionally, the Patriots’ visited the White House in either April or May when the schedule is most favorable for such a trip. However, with the team’s players and coaches currently vacationing before training camp starts later this month — the first players will report to camp on Sunday, July 21 — it appears as if no time for such a trip will be found before the grind of the NFL offseason kicks into its highest gear.
2019 could therefore become the second year in a row that the Super Bowl champions won’t visit Washington to get honored by the President: the Philadelphia Eagles were uninvited by the White House last spring after planning to send only a small contingent to the event (per some reports only two or three players were ready to go). This year, it seems as if no visit from the Super Bowl winners was ever scheduled in the first place.
The tradition of athletes visiting the White House dates back to the late 1800s. The first Super Bowl winners to go were the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, who joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, winners of the World Series the previous year, in a dual ceremony in February 1980. The Patriots, meanwhile, visited on five previous occasions. The last time came in April 2017— a visit that could turn out to be the NFL’s final one, at least under the current administration.
Reiss summed up the whole situation well: he noted that while some players might be disappointed to miss this possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, no such visit taking place this year “eliminates some of the recent hubbub involving teams from all sports in which who attends or doesn’t attend becomes a bigger story than the actual White House visit itself.”