Sporting teams visiting the White House has been an on and off tradition since the original Washington Nationals and the Brooklyn Athletics visited President Andrew Johnson back in 1865. It was not until 1924, when another DC baseball team, the Washington Senators visited Calvin Coolidge following their first World Series victory, and it was not until the Reagan administration did the visits for championship teams become a regular occurrence.
Ever since taking office in 2017, the Trump White House, like many other parts of their Administration, has made uncommon headlines over the common practice. The Golden State Warriors, the NBA champions in both 2017 and 18, as well as favorite in 2019, have yet to visit the White House after President Trump disinvited them for players on the team like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant openly saying they would not attend the ceremony.
In the NFL, the New England Patriots have attended the White House event after their 2017 victory, though more than two dozen players skipped the event for reasons both political and personal. Quarterback Tom Brady and wideout Danny Amendola said they had family reasons for not attending while running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive back Devin McCourty both said they do not believe they would be welcomed at the White House.
Brady and Amendola are white and Blount and McCourty are black.
When the Philadelphia Eagles took home the trophy the next year, a mirror of the Warriors situation occurred with the White House disinviting the team after multiple players vocally announced they would not go because of the President. Instead, the President used the situation to refer to the Eagles’ team (though only a few players were vocal about their decision to skip the ceremony) as engaging in a “political stunt” and, with the Marine Band and Army Chorus behind him, played the National Anthem, a clear shot at the Colin Kaepernick kneeling protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
Other sports like the NHL and collegiate teams that have visited the White House have gone without much of a hitch. In January, during the Government Shutdown and without the staff to cook or cater a dinner, the White House brought in a buffet of fast food to serve the NCAA Football champion Clemson Tigers. This past month, a similar buffet was put out for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Baylor Bears.
It seems as though collegiate sports and sports made up of mostly white athletes have apprehension for attending the White House, as sports that are more diverse and on a professional level, the conversation deals less with the teams themselves but the policies of the Administration.
This past week, the Boston Red Sox made their way to Washington for their White House visit. The Red Sox were the third MLB champs to visit the Trump White House. The first, the 2016 Chicago Cubs, went on without a hitch, though multiple players were absent, no political reasons were given. The Houston Astros attended last year with two notable absences, Puerto Rican players Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa. Correa, the team’s young talented shortstop did not give a reason. On the other hand, Beltran, who retired following the World Series victory and is seen as a potential Hall of Famer, said that he was, “disappointed in the government’s response to the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.”
The Trump Administration has been criticized over its response in providing support to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria back in 2017. The criticism includes a slow response and understanding of the severity of the disaster and the amount of funding going to repair the island nation. Trump has not helped his case, as he has criticized the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz of “poor leadership” after she criticized the Administration. The hurricane and its aftermath have led to around 3,000 deaths, one of the worst disasters in American history. Trump argued that the official death toll was put in place to “make me [Trump] look as bad as possible.”
The Red Sox’s manager, another Puerto Rican former player Alex Cora, skipped the ceremony over the issue of the Administration’s handling of Hurricane Maria. Some of the Red Sox’s best players who led the team to their victory are black or from Latin America. MVP winner Mookie Betts skipped the ceremony, as well as pitching ace and the winner of the closeout World Series game David Price. Also not in attendance were Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr and Hector Velaquez. Manager Cora was the only one who gave political reasons for his absence.
Dominican born third base coach Carlos Febles and Cuban American DH slugger JD Martinez were the only people of color in attendance for the Red Sox. Ironically, the Red Sox’s former DH David Ortiz, also from the Dominican Republic, and who is one of the greatest and most beloved Boston athletes in the city’s rich history, supported Cora’s decision with this comment.
“You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like s—t because I’m an immigrant. Once you see what is going in this country based on being an immigrant or being black, it’s something that goes beyond going into the White House and shaking hands with the president just because.”
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner dismissed any notion of a racial divide, seemingly trying to play off the fact that multiple key contributors on the team and the manager spent the day in their hotel instead of attending the ceremony.
“We don’t see it as a racial divide. We’ve been pleased to come to the White House – this is our fourth visit here and it was not a mandatory invitation. Those people who wanted to come were invited to join. I think to the extent that we can, we think baseball is apolitical. Today is neither a red day or a blue day. It’s a great day for us to be honored at the White House.”
Another Boston team, the New England Patriots, are right now trying to schedule their date for another appearance with the President following their February Super Bowl win. Three have already ruled it out, Devin McCourty once again said he will not go. His twin brother and fellow defensive back Jason McCourty also said that he “highly doubts it” and safety Duron Harmon said to TMZ, “they don’t want me in the White House.” Without a doubt in mind, multiple players, particularly the black players on the team, will speak out and refuse to attend the ceremony.