Getting invited to the White House for a photo op with the President of the United States used to be a foregone conclusion. The kind of thing that felt like a win-win for all parties involved. The team and players got a great experience and get to meet the President while the Commander in Chief earns some brownie points with the team’s fans for an easy PR victory.
That’s not really how it’s worked under Donald Trump. Trump has picked a lot of fights with a lot of people since becoming President and athletes are one of his top targets. He turned the NFL player protests during the national anthem into a national panic. He alienated scores of African-American athletes with his comments and agenda. And when it comes to inviting pro and NCAA champions to the White House for the photo op, even that has been turned into a statement event. Or in most cases these days, a non-event.
While NHL champs like the Pittsburgh Penguins, MLB champs like the Houston Astros, and NFL champs like the New England Patriots have been some of the few athletes to make the trek and smile alongside No. 45 (the Eagles notably did not), there’s one sport in particular that we’ve all just come to expect will not visit the White House so long as Trump is the one waiting to greet them.
After Steph Curry and other Golden State players criticized Trump before and after their NBA Finals victory, he disinvited them from the appearance (which was apparently never really extended in the first place). You might remember LeBron James then called Trump a “bum,” ensuring he’s not welcome there anytime soon either. The team did visit D.C. though in a wonderfully spiteful move. It was a moot point if the Warriors would visit after their 2018 Finals victory.
The 2017 NCAA men’s basketball champion North Carolina Tar Heels announced that they couldn’t make it to the White House because of “scheduling issues.” Meanwhile, 2017 women’s champ South Carolina won the whole thing in April but didn’t hear from the White House until November when they were invited to take part in a general celebration event. They declined.
The Minnesota Lynx won the WNBA title in 2017 but said they were never invited to the White House to be honored. Same goes for the 2018 champ Seattle Storm, who have not been invited and has said they will not attend even if they are.
And that brings us to the 2018 NCAA men’s and women’s champions, the Villanova Wildcats and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, respectively. You’re never gonna believe this but the White House never invited the Irish and now we’ve learned that they never bothered to invite the Wildcats either. For the Wildcats it’s a disappointment especially because they did go to the White House following their 2016 NCAA Title when Barack Obama was President.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright has taken the whole thing in stride, noting “two years ago it was the experience of a lifetime for all of us. It’s just a different time and I understand it. So it is what it is.”
It’s petty. It’s disappointing. It’s lazy. It’s rude. It’s cowardly.
It’s Donald Trump.