(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) As the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots visited Donald Trump at the White House yesterday, much of the mainstream media focused on how many team members refused to attend — some (but not all) because of political differences with the President.
But in an interview published yesterday by Boston sports talk radio station WEEI, former Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia revealed that he would not have attended — or at least would have been extremely conflicted about visiting — the White House when President Obama was in office.
“Everyone has got their own opinion,” Saltalamacchia, who is now with the Toronto Blue Jays, told the radio station. “I’ll be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have went because Obama was in. I didn’t agree with a lot of his political beliefs and the way he ran the country. I honestly probably wouldn’t have went.”
In an era when sensational quotes and politically partisan comments rifle around news Web sites and social media — regardless of point of view — WEEI’s interview with Saltalamacchia was ignored by the rest of the media.
According to reporter Rob Bradford, over the course of the interview, it became clear that while the 31-year-old Major League Baseball veteran would have not wanted to attend a ceremony hosted by President Obama, he was conflicted with sentiments of loyalty to his 2013 Red Sox teammates and respect for the highest office in the land. The season was also marked by the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, which heightened fans’ emotional support of the baseball team as a rallying point for overcoming the tragedy.
“Talking to it beforehand, talking about it now, I feel the same way,” Saltalamacchia said. “I still respect my country. I probably would have went just because of that reason alone. I respect my country and it’s an honor to go to our country’s capital.”
Saltalamacchia ultimately did not have to make the difficult choice in 2014 because the following season, when the Red Sox visited the White House, he had become a member of the Miami Marlins. A conflict with his new team’s game schedule made the decision moot.
But that didn’t make Saltalamacchia reluctant to express his feelings to WEEI about President Obama and his policies.
“It would have been tough just because of my thoughts on Obama and his belief system,” the catcher said. “I feel like he did a lot of things completely opposite of what this country believes in. … I just think he didn’t do a lot for our veterans. That’s my beliefs.”
Saltalamacchia said he understood why some New England players decided not to visit the Trump White House.
“I’m sure those those Patriots players are doing what their beliefs are,” he said. “I understand it and that’s what is so great about our country, the freedom to make that choice.”
It appeared that most of Saltalamacchia’s problems with Obama had to do with respect for our country and for members of the military.
“Regardless of what you think of the President, he’s the President, so you have to honor that even if you feel he didn’t honor America,” he told WEEI. “It’s tough. I think there’s a lot of military buddies I have in the Seals who don’t believe in a lot of what Obama did, but they still have to do their job and their duty in protecting our country….
“What happened last year, [with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick] kneeling down, to me that upset me more than anything because it’s like, you know what, our brothers and sisters are across seas fighting for our freedom to be able to do something like that and you can’t even respect them enough to stand for our National Anthem. People who die before us and fought for us.”
As for the New England Patriots, they have taken a lot of heat because Owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady all are friends with President Trump. While the media have tried to emphasize how many players skipped the White House trip, team officials have said the absences are in line with past visits to the nation’s capital.
“Every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go,” Kraft said on “The Today Show” in February. “This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention.”
Yesterday the New York Times further attempted to embarrass Trump and the Patriots on Twitter, by comparing photos from their visit in 2015 with President Obama and yesterday’s visit. The older image appears to show more team players and staff at the White House than this year, with stairwells on either side of the president’s podium filled in 2015, but not in 2017:
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 19, 2017
But the Patriots called the Times’ comparison a deception:
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
According to the Patriots, the total number of players who attended dropped from 50 to 34 from 2015 to 2017, but the total delegation from the team was about the same. Attendance drops were the same back in 2002, 2004, and 2005 after the Patriots won Super Bowls, when some players didn’t feel the need to visit multiple times within just a few years.