The New England Patriots lashed out at the New York Times Wednesday over a photo comparison that suggested the team’s turnout for a Super Bowl celebration with Donald Trump at the White House was much smaller than a previous celebration with former president Barack Obama.
The newspaper shared a 2015 photo, taken by an Associated Press photographer, on social media of the Super Bowl champs standing behind Obama. The Times compared the photo with an image taken by one of its own photographers during Wednesday’s celebration with Trump.
The 2015 photos shows Obama standing among the group of Patriots team members which extended along the staircases on either side of the president. The Times photo showed an empty staircase.
“Patriots’ turnout for President Obama in 2015 vs. Patriots’ turnout for President Trump today,” the newspaper tweeted with a link to an article.
The New England Patriots took to Twitter Wednesday night, saying the photo comparison lacked “context.”
“These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn,” the team tweeted.
Patriots’ spokesperson Stacey James explained to the Boston Globe that the process of meeting with Trump was a little different than meeting with Obama two years ago. Stacey said members of the team gathered in the room that is pictured above the staircases while meeting with Obama before the photo opportunity.
“Two years ago, the process was the players and coaches went down, and then the football staff filled in on the stairs,” James told the Globe.
WATCH: Bill Belichick presents Donald Trump with Patriots helmet, jersey.
The spokesperson noted this year, football and administrative staff were seated on the south lawn as opposed to standing with the rest of the group.
“That’s just what the White House chose to do,” James said.
The New York Times sent a follow-up tweet, saying the team told the newspaper fewer members attended this year’s celebration.
“UPDATE: Patriots say # of players was smaller this year than 2015 (34 vs. 50) but total delegation was roughly the same,” the newspaper tweeted.
The Patriots spokesperson told the Globe comparing the attendance between the two appearances is “wrong.”
“When you win two [Super Bowls] in three years, fewer people go than one in 10 years,” James said. “It’s just the way it goes. “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.”
The team also shared another photo Wednesday evening showing the full group flanking the president.
“Thanks @realDonaldTrump & @WhiteHouse for the gracious hospitality today honoring the Super Bowl Champion New England #Patriots!” the team tweeted.
Photo comparisons have been a bit of a sour point for the Trump administration.
In January, the Trump administration disputed photos that countered the administration’s claim that it “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Trump claimed up to one and a half million people attended the event at the Capitol and National Mall.
On Thursday morning, the president took aim at the “failing” New York Times over the Patriots’ photo, saying the newspaper had been caught “in a big lie.”
“Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.” Trump tweeted.
The Times article issued a correction on Wednesday, explaining the photo comparison.
“An earlier version of this article included photos comparing the size of the Patriots’ gathering at the White House in 2015 and the gathering on Wednesday. The photo from Wednesday only showed players and coaches; the 2015 photo showed players, coaches and support staff and has been removed,” reads the correction.
–with a file from the Associated Press