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NFL Patriots meet Trump without Tom Brady, some teammates

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Apr 19, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; President Donald Trump (M) holds a team jersey as New England 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. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Apr 19, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; President Donald Trump (M) stands with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (L), Patriots owner Robert Kraft( M-R), team president Jonathan Kraft (R), and Patriots players at a ceremony honoring the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots on the South Lawn at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as Head Coach Bill Belichick (L) and CEO of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft watch during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump holds a New England Patriots helmet as Coach Bill Belichick (L) and CEO of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, watch during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion team at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with CEO of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly holds a t-shirt with an unidentified man honoring his son who was killed in Afghanistan, after an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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Members of the New England Patriots enter the South Portico of the White House after U.S. President Donald Trump honored the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump honors the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump honors the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a New England Patriots jersey during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion team at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump embraces New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft (R) as the teams' wide reciever Julian Edelman (L) looks on during an event to honor the reigning Super Bowl champions at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Donald Trump (R) points at New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (L) during an event to honor the reigning Super Bowl champions at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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While some players stayed away in protest, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Wednesday made the traditional visit to the White House where team owner Robert Kraft lauded his longtime friend, President Donald Trump, and likened his long-shot victory to the Patriots' own.

While other players had suggested political reasons for not attending, quarterback Tom Brady, the game's most valuable player, said family matters kept him away. He posted a wedding photo of his parents on Instagram and wished them a happy anniversary.

The White House celebrations were overshadowed by the suicide of the Patriots former star Aaron Hernandez, who hanged himself on Wednesday in a prison cell where he was serving a life sentence for murder, prison officials said.

The Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in February to be crowned National Football League champions.

Players who stayed away included Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Devin McCourty and Chris Long. They had suggested directly or indirectly that they were not fans of Trump, whose national approval rating hovers around 43 percent in the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Kraft compared the Patriots' victory to Trump's win in the November 2016 election and handed him a jersey with number 45 on it representing the 45th president of the United States.

"This year's championship was achieved after falling behind by 25 points," Kraft said. "In that same year a very good friend of mine for over 25 years, a man who is mentally tough and hard-working as anybody I know launched a campaign for the presidency against 16 career politicians facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter.

"He persevered to become the 45th president of the United States."

With the Patriots lined up behind him, Trump said: "No team has been this good for this long."

"You pulled off the greatest Super Bowl victory of all-time."

Elsewhere at the White House, the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski interrupted press secretary Sean Spicer's daily briefing with reporters, opening a door behind the spokesman to ask amid laughter: "You need some help?"

"I think I got this, but thank you," the spokesman replied.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Howard Goller)

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