Time to Cut Tradition of Sports Teams Visiting the White House

San Antonio Spurs visit the White House

Considering the times in which we now live, maybe it’s not such a good idea for presidents to invite sports teams to the White House, suggests Mitch Albom.

The columnist at the Detroit Free Press writes, “Presidents mostly use it to boost their popularity. Teams use it to boost their legacy. It started as a nicety, but playing nice is not very fashionable these days.”

The tradition originated in 1865 when Andrew Johnson welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals baseball teams. The Atlantics, founded in 1855 in Brooklyn NY, became one of the top teams during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. They were considered the National Champions in 1864 and 1865.

Although other teams made their way to the White House sporadically over the next century, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s began inviting winning teams after every season. Unfortunately, the occasion has now become an opportunity for athletes to draw attention to themselves by boycotting the presidential meeting for political reasons.

This year the White House protests involve President Donald Trump, who campaigned on legal immigration, strong national security, and the eradication of Islamic terrorism. These are not values supported by several of the Patriots players who see Trump’s vision as exclusive, xenophobic, and racist.

“I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” defensive back Devin McCourty gave as his reason for not visiting the 45th president of the United States. “I don’t feel welcome in that house,” running back LeGarrette Blount echoed to NFL host Rich Eisen.

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower simply stated, “Been there, done that,” referring to his visits to the White House as a college player, when he was an All-American and two-time national champion at Alabama. 

Certainly, boycotting Trump “is surely their right to do so as Americans,” says Albom. “It is also rude,” he adds.

Albom points out that visiting the White House isn’t an endorsement of its current occupant. “And taking a photo with your nation’s elected leader doesn’t mean you surrender your right to disagree with every single thing he does,” he reminds us.

America has changed, argues Albom. “We live in a world where declaring is easier than doing, and Twitter posts pass for social action. So turning down an invitation — by tweeting or doing an interview —  gets you celebrated. You don’t need to actually do anything to make the country better. You don’t even need to leave the couch.”