As Trump Disinvites the Eagles, A Brief Look at His Fraught History With Champion Athletes

June 5, 2018, 11:03 AM UTC

President Trump has had a public, and frequently antagonistic relationship with professional athletes since taking the presidency (see: Colin Kaepernick, NFL more broadly).

Now he has uninvited 2018 Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, from the customary White House visit. The retracted invite comes following news that several players would not participate, due to Trump’s continued criticism of players kneeling during the national anthem.

But this isn’t the first time Trump has uninvited athletes—nor the first time they’ve chosen not to attend.

New England Patriots

Last April, following the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl win, a number of players chose not to visit the White House. According to The New York Times, 34 players attended, as compared to nearly 50 in 2015, when Barack Obama was still serving as president.

While a Patriots spokesperson attributed the dwindling numbers to “some veteran players” not seeing “the need to go twice in three years,” several of the players provided more political reasons.

The Times reported at the time that running back LeGarrette Blount, tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, and defensive tackle Alan Branch were among those who suggested variations on a sentiment that they did not feel welcome in the White House as a reason for not attending. Quarterback Tom Brady pointed to “personal family matters” as his reason for not going.

Pittsburgh Penguins

2017 NHL Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins took a considerably less political approach to the customary White House visit last October. According to a Penguins media release, all of the players attended the visit, but the team was remarkably quiet about the visit on its social media accounts.

A month prior, the team had released a statement saying that it respects “the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House” and had accepted the White House’s invitation.

“Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways,” it continued. Nevertheless, at least one report of the visit suggests that the team failed give Trump a gift, as is typically done.

Golden State Warriors

After winning the NBA championship last year, the Golden State Warriors were somewhat unsurprisingly uninvited from visiting the White House. The team’s players, like that of sister Bay Area football team the 49ers, have largely been critical of the Trump administration.

After player Steph Curry criticized Trump, the president rescinded the invite on Twitter.

Instead of visiting the White House last fall, then, several of the Warriors went to Washington in February this year, and visited the National Museum of African-American History and Culture with local Washington students.

Player Klay Thompson told reporters that “the White House is a great honor but there’s extenuating circumstances that we felt that we’re not comfortable doing.”

“We’re not going to politicize anything, we’re just going to hang out with some kids, take them to an African-American museum and hopefully teach them things we learned along the way and life lessons, and we’ll still be getting some great memories,” he continued.

Houston Astros

Following their World Series win, the Houston Astros readily accepted the White House invitation. In January, Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan told the Houston Chronicle that it “is a tradition and an honor. For many people, this might be their only time to ever be invited to the White House.”

Two players who did not attend reportedly cited family obligations. A third, recently retired outfielder Carlos Beltran, skipped the visit due to disappointment with the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, particularly in his home of Puerto Rico.

And of course there’s the 2017 WNBA champs, the Minnesota Lynx, who conspicuously never received a White House invite of their own.