The president typically invites sports champions to the White House for a ceremony. When Donald Trump took office, however, things changed. Some teams, like the New England Patriots, have visited, albeit with some players choosing not to attend for political and personal reasons.
During this presidency, sports and politics are connected in a way they haven’t been before. President Trump is no stranger to publicly feuding with teams, athletes, owners, and entire leagues. With the Toronto Raptors winning this year’s championship, the White House visit is in question.
President Trump’s un-invitation
The Golden State Warriors publicly said they would not go to the White House in 2017, causing President Trump to publicly rescind his invite. What resulted was a feud that went beyond the team. Players, coaches, and the media commented on the president’s petulance. One notable commentator was LeBron James, whose 2016 Cavaliers visited President Obama before he left office, tweeting a heated statement about Trump’s “un-invite.”
A media storm followed, predictably dividing people. Some said James was out of line. President Trump said he was overrated, contradicting previous tweets where he praised the superstar athlete. With the Warriors winning the next year, another White House invite is yet to be sent to the NBA Champions. Other leagues have gotten different responses, too.
Canadians in the White House?
Aside from politics and tradition, Toronto is the first non-American team to win the NBA Championship. When considering past champions, there’s reason to believe the Raptors would get an invite during a typical presidency. In 1992, when the Toronto Blue Jays became the first Canadian team to win the World Series, President George H.W. Bush invited them.
At the end of the day, like pro baseball, the NBA is still largely viewed by millions of Americans. So, inviting a Canadian champion is not an unheard plan, even if it may still be unlikely during this run.
Will the Raptors visit?
The team is already expected to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, Raptors coach Nick Nurse was evasive when asked about a trip to Washington D.C. Players past and present, however, have been vocally against the idea.
Former face of the Raptor franchise DeMar DeRozan, who was famously traded for Kawhi Leonard during the last offseason, said he wouldn’t go if he was still on the team. The San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green, who visited the White House under Obama, said it’s a “hard no.”
Time will tell if the Raptors visit the White House. Trump has expressed he will consider inviting the team. But history shows he will only invite Toronto if he thinks the majority of the team will happily visit. With far more dissent than support for the visit, it’s safe to say the Raptors only state visit will be with Trudeau.