The media heavily reported on several Washington Nationals players’ decision not to attend the White House celebration of their team’s World Series victory, but there were few outlets who criticized their move. Athletes who chose to skip the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency received very different treatment in the media.
Under Trump: Prior to the team’s Monday trip to the White House, pitcher Sean Doolittle told the Washington Post that he wouldn’t join his teammates because of President Trump’s rhetoric. Anthony Rendon, Javy Guerra, Joe Ross, Wander Suero, Wilmer Difo, Michael A. Taylor, Victor Robles, Roenis Elías skipped the event as well, though, it is unclear whether their reasons were political or otherwise, with the exception of Guerra who said he was preparing for his wedding.
Other sports stars have declined an invitation from the Trump administration including players from last year’s Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. Most of them chose not to attend because of their opposition to the president.
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During Obama’s presidency, there were many athletes who rejected his administration’s invitation to the White House and came under harsh criticism from the media. The Daily Caller compiled a list of athletes who faced backlash for skipping a White House visit under the former president.
Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins’ goaltender, said he wouldn’t visit the White House in 2012 after his team’s Stanley Cup, citing the federal government’s actions, and came under fire for it.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People… This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion, both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL,” he said in a statement back then.
“Tim Thomas’s White House Snub Wasn’t Brave, It Was Just Rude,” read a headline in U.S. News & World Report written by senior political writer Susan Milligan. “Tim Thomas’s recent, very public White House snub is not just tiresome or sanctimonious or overwrought (though it is). It underscored a distressing trend in this country: people have lost the ability to distinguish between speaking truth to power and just being a jerk,” she wrote.
“When the president of the United States invites you and all your teammates to the White House to honor your Stanley Cup championship, you go and represent the team,” McDonald argued.
Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ quarterback, didn’t attend a White House celebration in 2015 because of a “family obligation.” Yet, the New York Post sarcastically referred to him as “some patriot” and described his decision as “deflating.”
— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) April 23, 2015
ESPN’s Steven A. Smith suggested there was more to Brady’s refusal to go to the White House on “First Take.”
“So Tom Brady couldn’t attend, huh? So Tom Brady couldn’t attend. But was he there in 2001 when George W. Bush was president? Yes. Was he there in 2003 and 2004? But when George W. Bush was president in 2001, 2003, 2004, Tom Brady was there. Tom Brady was there at the White House celebrating,” he said.
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Dan Hampton, Chicago Bears’ former defensive lineman turned down a 2011 invitation to the White House for a celebration of his team’s 1986 Super Bowl victory, saying he’s not “a fan” of Obama.
“This is the Bears’ once in a lifetime opportunity that has been given a second chance. Some people don’t realize our initial trip in 1986 was canceled because of the Challenger space shuttle accident,” Wrightman wrote in a Facebook post. “I think it was a classy thing for Obama to right the misfortune of our team. Besides, the White House is not President Obama’s house it’s the people’s house,” wrote his then-teammate Tim Wrightman in a Facebook post.
The Bleacher Report’s Eric Bowman called him “selfish.”
“The only Super Bowl in the Bears’ history, and he doesn’t want to commemorate it because he doesn’t like the guy who happens to be living in the White House. Can you say selfish?” he said.
James Harrison, the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker didn’t visit the White House in 2009, saying it’s “no big deal.” He also didn’t accept an invitation from Bush in 2006. “I don’t feel the need to go, actually,” Harrison told WTAE-TV in 2009. “I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal to me. This is how I feel. If you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, he (Obama) would’ve invited Arizona if they had won,” he said.
The Bleacher Report’s Dumont Walker called it a “‘F’ You to Obama” move.
Matt Birk, former Baltimore Ravens’ center, said he didn’t visit the White House in 2015 because of Obama’s views on abortion.
“I would say this — I would say that I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood,’ Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am Catholic. I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way,” he said.
Others: Brock Osweiler, who played for Denver Broncos, Broncos player Derek Wolfe, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, NASCAR stars Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart and former Cardinal players Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa have all declined an invitation to the White House by the Obama administration, citing non-political reasons, such as scheduling conflicts.
Deadspin noted that Pujols and LaRussa took part in Blaze CEO Glenn Beck’s 2010 Tea Party rally.