In White House Super Bowl ceremony, a picture lies

This photo from the New York Times raced around social media yesterday. Why? Because it told a story people wanted to believe and we’re long past the day when news consumers questioned what they want to believe.


It was intended to show that President Trump isn’t as popular as President Obama, at least with people who win Super Bowls; in this case the New England Patriots, who were feted for their had-it-all-the-way Super Bowl victory earlier this year.

In the 2015 Super Bowl ceremony, Patriots filled the stairs. In yesterday’s photo, only a handful of players appeared to show up for the honors by comparison.

The real story? It’s wrong, the Associated Press reports.

In the 2015 story, the Patriots staff stood on the stairs. They weren’t shown in Wednesday’s photo because they were sitting on the lawn.

Says the Boston Globe:

One reason for the smaller group on the risers was likely because the Trump administration wanted to take the players on a tour of the living quarters, but wanted to take a smaller group — just the players and core coaching staff — instead of the whole entourage.

In 2015, as soon as the event was over, “we left — that was it,” (Patriots spokesman Stacey) James said. “This time, there was a tour given to a smaller group.”

Here’s what the picture looks like with everyone. It was taken during a rehearsal.

“When you win two [Super Bowls] in three years, fewer people go than one in 10 years,” he said, noting that player turnout for the White House ceremonies between 2002 and 2005 decreased steadily.

“It’s just the way it goes,” James said. “It’s a long day. It’s a cool thing you do once — maybe you do it twice — but it’s just not necessarily something you choose to do every time. We had people today who were attending funerals, who were sick — it wasn’t political; it’s just life.”

(h/t: Sean Collins)

  • Robert Moffitt

    More proof that while a photo may be worth a thousand words, those words aren’t necessarily true.

  • Gary F

    The NYT having a bias and trying to push a narrative? No, couldn’t be.

    • Good thing the conservative Boston Globe was there to set things straight.

      • Gary F

        Wasn’t the Globe the A farm system of the NYT?

        • Not really. It was owned by the NY Times at one point, but that was well after its peak, when it was owned by the Taylor family and Tom Winship was the editor. At one point it had a sports department that has been unequaled since — Gammons, Bob McDonough, Bob Ryan, Leslie Visser, Bud Collins etc.

          When the Times owned it, it specialized in what it does best… cutback and layoff.

  • chris

    There is a whiff of both sides-ism here. I don’t think you can blame news consumers when the NYT sends out the image. It is well known that the right is much more willing to believe and consume fake news. After all, the current president spent years talking about President Obama’s birth certificate. There is just no equivalence on the other side.

      • chris

        Ok, if you think democrats are just as into fake news and news that feeds only their bias, I can’t change your mind. But I think the evidence is far more that there is a right wing echo chamber, while the left still consumes mainstream news. Fox has not until today even covered the O’Reilly scandal, as just one example.

        “Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait.”

        • What you may or may not think… what I may or may not think… is pretty irrelevant in matters of reality. It only matters what is known to be true.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            It depends on how we know what we know. If we don’t verify from trusted sources what we say we know might only be what we think we know. From there its a short walk to fake news.

          • chris

            Yes, and one opinion poll and one Slate article are hardly the authority on what is known to be true. I do know that the GOP bathes in Trump lie upon Trump lie and there isn’t a hint of equivalence on the other side.

          • I didn’t say it was the authority on what is known to be true. I referred to your assertion that something is “well known” with the suggestion that because it is, it is therefore true. That’s not how a truth works or is defined.

            What people think is a truth, is most often dictated by what they want most to think. It’s not an intellectual calculation. It more like a religion or a faith.

            When confronted with this fact, people will usually point out that “the other side” is worse or “does it too,” which is an entirely separate perversion of logic.

          • chris

            Ok. It is true that the right much more than the left is in thrall to fake news.

  • ec99

    “All the news that’s fit to print.”

  • kennedy

    I notice that the plants along the stairs are much more green in 2017. Signs of warmer weather in DC the spring of 2017 compared to 2015.

    • Jack

      Are you implying global warming? 😉

  • Mike Worcester

    When did it become “tradition” for a winning sports team to visit the White House? Or for the celebratory locker room call by its occupant? While I get that ceremony and pomp are part of the job, these are the kind of moments to which I say, “meh….”.

    I also understand though that now, thanks to our attention spans being that of a gnat, a large percentage of folks will either forget about, or not even hear about, the correct circumstances in this specific case.

    • I think Nixon started the phone call phenomenon

      • Zachary

        You have no proof of that!! 😉

  • Sks_55557

    There’s nothing quite so frustrating as seeing a fool occasionally proven right…..

  • Sks_55557

    I guess the exact quote is: Winston S. Churchill — “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

  • Rob

    Let’s not lose sight (pun intended) of the bigger story, which is that several members of the team did not attend the event because Trump’s political rhetoric and actions make them feel unwelcome

    • Someone always boycotts these things for perceived violations of their political beliefs. It’s gotten almost as tired as the event itself.

      • Jesse Luoma

        Sure, but I understand that 50 of 53 or so man roster players attended in 2015, and 34 attended this year. That’s quite a few more boycotting or otherwise than before. And a number of those have spoken out about it. The picture comparison is definitely misleading though.

        • After you win a bunch of super bowls, the White House Ian’t such a big deal.

          Julian Edelman was at a funeral.

          Only about 4 or 5 players said they were boycotting. Big deal.

          • Jesse Luoma

            Hmmm. How many openly boycotted Obama’s white house? Big deal or no, just wondering about facts.

          • Don’t know.. Tim Thomas did with the bruins. Tom Brady skipped both. Some players didn’t go last time and just kept their mouths shut why

      • Rob


  • FOX hunter

    Didn’t take long for the “Ministry of Propoganda and Damage Control” to patch-together some “explanation” for the lesser-than-Obama’s turn-out!

  • JP

    I see the point in comparing pictures and having conclusions drawn, however, unless the pictures were taken in the same context, neither option really shows the truth. The picture with 45 appears to include a lot of family/entourage and the people are more spread out. The picture with 44 has nearly the same number of people if you actually count heads but it’s less clear who the players are vs family/entourage. Both stories are misleading.

  • lindblomeagles

    What I fail to understand is why are conservatives and liberals conducting a Donald Trump versus Barack Obama contest? Barack Obama isn’t coming back. The fact that he 1) won 2 terms instead of 1; 2) left office with high favorability ratings; 3) apparently developed the best health care plan to date (even better than the private sector’s version which left millions of Americans uninsured) speaks to his legacy. What Trump and conservatives ought to be doing is building their own legacy instead of running against Obama’s. That’s what REAL Presidents do. Ronald Reagan didn’t consume himself with Jimmy Carter. George Bush didn’t pretend he could beat Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton didn’t rate how he fared against George Bush, and George W. Bush didn’t fret about Bill Clinton. Barack Obama began his Presidency talking about Bush this and Bush that, but he quickly learned that wasn’t going to fly. Once again, BARACK OBAMA ISN’T COMING BACK. Come up with an agenda Republicans or face the FAR MORE REAL specter of being out of office in 2018 and 2020.

  • Some players went to the White House to honor the previous occupant.