Trump Honors Patriots at the White House on the Same Day Former Player Aaron Hernandez Dies in Prison

Trump, who is close to Patriots owner Robert KRaft, said the team "pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time"

Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots Visit White House
Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty

President Donald Trump honored the New England Patriots at the White House Wednesday for its historic Super Bowl win — the same day former player Aaron Hernandez was found dead inside his Massachusetts prison cell.

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, which quarterback Tom Brady skipped 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.

“With your backs against the wall … and the pundits saying you couldn’t do it, you pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time,” Trump said during his remarks, in which he declined to mention the star quarterback.

Trump later likened their victory to his own surprise November election win — noting that “whether you’re trying to win a Super Bowl or rebuild our country, as coach Belichick would say, ‘There are no days off.’ Kraft swiftly returned the praise, calling the president “mentally tough and hardworking as anybody I know.”

In addition to Brady, several other players skipped the event. Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and Alan Branch all said they would not accept an invitation to visit the White House, NBC News reports. Branch told The Boston Globe that he was offended by the lewd and sexist comments made by the president that came to light on a 2005 Access Hollywood video.

RELATED VIDEO: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Assault

“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.”

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was among the players who did attend the event, and the notorious prankster stayed true to his antics when he crashed a White House press briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“Sean, need any help?” he joked.

RELATED VIDEO: Aaron Hernandez Dead After Hanging Himself in Prison Cell

Wednesday’s event happened the same day former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell while serving a life sentence for the 2011 murder of Odin Lloyd,

Hernandez was found unresponsive in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts, about 3 a.m. Wednesday, according to a statement from the state Department of Correction.

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