The Patriots had also visited the White House in 2015 after their Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks. At the time, President Barack Obama lived in the White House, and there appears to be significantly more Patriots in the photo from that day than there is from Wednesday’s visit to President Donald Trump.
Patriots Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James told TIME that 34 players attended this year. The team sent 36 players to George W. Bush’s White House in 2004, and 27 in 2005, according to James. He could not confirm the number of players who visited in 2015.
A number of Patriots players declined to visit the White House this year for a variety of reasons. Quarterback Tom Brady, a friend of the president, pulled out of the trip last minute, citing family reasons. Others, like defensive back Devin McCourty, opted out due to the presence of Trump. “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t,” McCourty told TIME in February.
The visual comparison of the Patriots’ 2015 and 2017 trips resembles another juxtaposition between Obama and Trump. Following the president’s inauguration in January, observers were quick to point out the substantial difference in crowd size between Obama’s ceremony in 2009 compared to Trump’s.
The president was not happy with the comparison, saying at the time, “We caught [the media] in a beauty, and I think they’re going to pay a big price.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer later said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe.”
The Patriots’ trip to the White House on Wednesday came on the same day it was reported that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in prison.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.