Less than one day after The New York Times Sports Twitter account issued a tweet that inaccurately compared the number of New England Patriots players and staff that visited the White House when Barack Obama was president to the visit they had on Wednesday, the Times’ sports editor John Stallman took responsibility in an email to The Washington Post:
“Bad tweet by me. Terrible tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time.
Once we learned more, we tried to fix everything as much as possible as swiftly as possible and as transparently as possible. Of course, at that point the damage was done. I just needed to own it.”
Stallman then issued an updated tweet.
UPDATE: Patriots say # of players was smaller this year than 2015 (34 vs. 50) but total delegation was roughly the same. pic.twitter.com/Ij77Def8z5
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 20, 2017
The team said that 36 players were at the White House the last time they won two Super Bowls in three years. On Wednesday, there were 34. According to Patriots spokesman Stacy James, Wednesday’s turnout was about the same when George W. Bush hosted the team in 2004 and 2005. That compares to 45 players who attended in 2002, after they won their first Super Bowl, and 50 in 2015 when Barack Obama was president. James said that many veteran players didn’t see the need to go twice in three years, accounting for some of the difference in attendance.
As for the picture flap, James said that in some years the photos include support staff—as they did in 2015—making the turnout appear larger.
If Stallman hadn’t been in such a rush to make a political statement out of the Patriots visit, he could have avoided the embarrassment to both himself and the Times.