A fresh controversy has arisen concerning photographs of crowds attending a ceremony involving US President Donald Trump - and just how big those crowds are.

First, it was the infamous images of Trump's inauguration taken from above the National Mall which, despite Trump's inflated claims about attendance levels, showed drastically reduced crowd numbers compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Now, it is images of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots team attending the White House that have caused a stir.

At first glance, it appears that a large number of Patriots boycotted the ceremony compared to when they visited two years ago - but a closer look reveals there is more to the story.

After the New York Times reported the apparent disparity by tweeting the two photographs side by side, the Patriots pointed out that the 2015 photo showed players, coaches and administrative staff, whereas in 2017 the latter were seated on the South Lawn.

Jason Stallman, New York Times' sports editor, apologised for his apparent gaffe 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," he wrote.

"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."

Players boycott Trump

In spite of this clarification, however, the number of Patriots players was indeed lower than when Obama was in office, with 34 attending this year compared to 50 in 2015.

Notable players including LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Alan Branch, Dont'a Hightower, Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty all stayed away specifically because they disapprove of Trump.

Star quarterback Tom Brady also did not attend the ceremony. However he has described himself as a friend of Trump's, and his absence was reportedly due to "personal family matters".

The New YorkTimes' apology was not sufficient for Trump, however, who took to Twitter to lambast the organisation, with whom he has often had a strained relationship.