It’s the inauguration crowd size dispute all over again.
The New England Patriots are disputing a photo tweeted by The New York Times that seemed to show a much bigger turnout for the team’s White House visit with President Barack Obama in 2015 than with President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
The newspaper’s post showed an Associated Press photo of the Super Bowl champions standing behind Obama on the south side of the White House from two years ago in which stairs on either side of the main group were filled with members of the NFL organization. It was compared to a photo taken on Wednesday which showed both staircases empty.
The Patriots disputed the claim, saying the photos “lack context.”
“Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs,” they wrote. “In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn.”
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The team added that the size of the group was similar to when they celebrated with President George W. Bush in 2004 and 2005.
“Comparable photos: The last time the #Patriots won two Super Bowls in three years, 36 players visited the White House,” the team tweeted. “Today, we had 34.”
These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn. https://t.co/iIYtV0hR6Y- New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017
Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2017
Trump called out The New York Times for the misleading tweet on Thursday morning.
“Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.,” he wrote.
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Trump, a Patriots fan who is close to owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick, received his own Super Bowl LI helmet and jersey during the event.
Quarterback Tom Brady pulled out of attending at the last minute, citing “personal family matters.” Several other players also opted to skip the event, with some citing Trump’s political views as the reason.
“I wouldn’t spend time away from my family to shake the hand of a guy I wouldn’t want to meet with or talk to,” Branch, who has a son and three daughters, said. “I can’t see myself going and then hanging out with my kids and pretending everything was all right.”
The visit occurred the same day former player Aaron Hernandez was found dead inside his Massachusetts prison cell. Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell while serving a life sentence for the 2011 murder of Odin Lloyd, just days after he was acquitted in a separate double murder case.
Hernandez was selected by the Patriots during the fourth found of the 2010 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year contract that included a $200,000 signing bonus. He started the 2010 season as the youngest active player in the NFL and played three seasons before he was arrested for murder.