Ever since 1865, when President Andrew Johnson welcomed the Washington Nationals, an amateur team, to the White House, it has become customary for American professional sports teams to visit the White House and the President following championship victories. It wasn’t until four years later, in 1869, that the first professional baseball team ate dinner with the President when Ulysses S. Grant hosted the Cincinnati Red Stockings, a team from his home state of Ohio.
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy over this practice as a result of multiple high profile sports teams refusing to dine with President Donald Trump. In the last few weeks, the controversy has been centered around the Boston Red Sox.
As a consequence of the recently ended government shutdown, some of the players have stated that they would not feel comfortable celebrating since the New England region was hit especially hard. Others, including the manager Alex Cora, have said they are not attending because of the way that Trump has been handling issues related to Puerto Rico. Cora, a native of the US territory, disagreed with the President’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and the lack of an effort to provide relief.
While the Red Sox have been relatively silent on their reasons for not attending, other teams have voiced their opinion very publicly. In 2017, when the Golden State Warriors were invited, Stephen Curry said that they would not attend. Very soon after, Trump rescinded his offer. When the team won the NBA championship once again last year, Trump took preemptive action to save face and did not invite them.
We are currently living in a period of political unrest, and athletes refusing to visit the White House is just a symptom of our divided political climate. As athletes continue to throw themselves into the political spotlight, the question arises: which team will be next to reject Trump’s offer?