President Donald Trump (M) holds a team jersey as Patriots owner Robert Kraft (R) and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (L) look on at a ceremony honoring the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots on the South Lawn at the White House. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots on Wednesday paid a visit to the White House, as is the custom for reigning Super Bowl champions. A prevailing story line heading into the annual tradition was how several Patriots players were declining the invite in presumptive protest of Donald Trump (more on that here).

And the President attempted to dispel that belief on social media.

Trump on Thursday morning took to Twitter to blast the notion that his presence in the White House was the catalyst for so many no-shows.

The controversy stems from one prominent media outlet seemingly documenting the relative lack of turnout by players at the event. 

The New York Times on Wednesday posted photos juxtaposing this year’s White House visit by the Patriots to the turnout in 2015 following their Super Bowl XLIX victory.

But the Patriots, via their Twitter account, suggested the photos depicting the turnout “lacked context.”

The context between the photos bears the implication that more Patriots players attended the event when Barack Obama was in office and declined this year due to Trump’s presidency. The Patriots dismissed that notion on Twitter.

The Patriots later tweeted a photo portraying the team’s turnout in a tweet thanking Trump and the White House for being such gracious hosts.

Trump of course has strong ties to the Patriots organization, as both owner Robert Kraft and Tom Brady have been frequently characterized by Trump as being friends. Brady did not attend Wednesday’s event, citing “family matters” which turned out to be his parents’ 48th wedding anniversary, which the Patriots quarterback alluded to Wednesday in an Instagram post.

The tally of Patriots players who visited the White House Wednesday numbered at 34. Boston.com notes in a report that 27 players made the trek in 2005 while 36 showed up in 2004 following those respective Super Bowl victories.

The notion that sports teams have been confronted with politicizing a White House visit during Trump’s presidency has been a recurring theme since he took office (here and here). But in the end, it appears the Patriots were relatively well-represented in their White House visit this time around.

This article first appeared on Sportress of Blogitude and was syndicated with permission.

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