By now you know that several members of the New England Patriots say they won’t participate in the annual ceremonial visit to the White House that is extended to Super Bowl champions.
Consider this a pre-emptive strike, if not bad manners, since they haven’t even been invited yet.
Alan Branch says he wants to stay home with his family, Chris Long has offered no reason and James White is undecided. Dont’a Hightower, who turned down the invite the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl, says, “Been there, done that,” having visited the White House as a member of Alabama’s national championship team (who is this guy, Forrest Gump?). As for Devin McCourty, LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett — they don’t like President Donald Trump’s politics. (A few months ago, Bennett said he would move to outer space if Trump were elected president; he didn’t.)
This is not the first time athletes have refused an invitation to the White House for the championship team meet-and-greet with the president. Jon Terbush, a reporter for The Week, counted 18 athletes who have skipped the event, with excuses ranging from political statements to a previous golf engagement (and then there was James Harrison’s excuse: He was offended because the White House, he explained, wouldn’t have invited his Steelers team if they had not won the Super Bowl — sheesh!).
Like the Patriots, some athletes have booked their “dis-invitation” into the future. Last November, following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ visit to Barack Obama’s White House, Richard Jefferson said his team would have “scheduling conflicts” if Trump were president and they were invited to the White House in 2017 (consider this another presumptuous, pre-emptive strike, since the Cavs not only haven’t been invited again, but they haven’t even won this year’s NBA title).
Previously, not much was made of athletes declining these White House invitations, but in today’s volatile political climate everything is being politicized, whether it’s a nice visit to the White House or the national anthem. Haven’t you had a gutful of it all? Every time you open the sports page someone is holding an event hostage because not everyone agrees with his take on the world. They’ve sucked the fun out of everything.
They politicized the Super Bowl, again (remember Arizona in 1993?). While some Patriots were saying no to the White House, the NFL declared that Texas won’t be allowed to host another Super Bowl — as it did this year — if the state passes a proposed bill that would require people to use the bathroom of the sex that is on their birth certificate. Only in today’s upside-down world would anyone interpret that as unreasonable.
Hmm, the NFL as a moral compass Isn’t this the league that gave wrist slaps to football players who beat up women and threw the book at players who let a little air out of footballs?
They politicized the NBA All-Star Game. The NBA pulled the event from North Carolina last year over the same bathroom issue. Meanwhile, the league played preseason games in China, never mind its rampant human rights violations.
They politicized college championships. The NCAA pulled seven championship events from North Carolina over the bathroom issue. They’re going to go elsewhere to exploit young athletes for millions of dollars.
They politicized sponsorships. When Under Armour announced its support for the president, several Under Armour athletes made angry protests against the company that pays them to wear their gear. Immediately, Nike and Adidas, smelling blood in the water, released statements saying they don’t support Trump’s policies, and then Under Armour backed off its statement. It’s heartwarming when companies are guided by their conscience — or money, whatever.
Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the national anthem and started a national trend that ruined a time-honored pregame rite. He claimed it was a response to oppression in America, but he just looked ridiculous when he showed up at a press conference wearing a Fidel Castro T-shirt.
Everyone is joining the fad. In Utah, the Outdoor Retailers Convention is threatening to take its event elsewhere. The reason: State officials are urging the federal government to return a million acres of wilderness that Obama claimed as a national monument just before leaving office. The retailers care about the untamed wilderness — or places where people tend to buy their gear, whatever.
Now the White House visits have become one more politicized event. Memo to Trump: Don’t mail the invitations.