“Will they go to the White House?” It’s become a popular question every time a team or an athlete wins an American sports championship. Under Donald Trump, the answer varies. Some teams gladly accept the president’s invitation, which infamously includes a buffet of fast food. Other teams have publicly declined a visit before even receiving an invitation.
The latest chapter of Trump’s volatile history with the sports world surrounds the United States Women’s National Team. The group began to spar with the president before they even won the World Cup.
Women’s National Team
Much of the drama surrounding this soccer team centers around Megan Rapinoe, who followed in the footsteps of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and protested the National Anthem. This invited the ire of President Trump.
Rapinoe, a lesbian and co-captain of the USWNT, has been vocal about the president’s policies concerning not only the LGBTQ+ community but also people of color and class inequality. President Trump wasted no time voicing his displeasure with Rapinoe.
It is safe to say the USWNT will not visit the White House. And they won’t be the first team to refuse an invitation or shoot down one before it’s given.
Golden State Warriors
The first high-profile spat with the president came from the Golden State Warriors. Previous NBA Champion, the Cleveland Cavaliers, made sure they got to visit the White House when Barack Obama was still in office. So it fell on the Warriors to set a new precedent. When Stephen Curry voiced his displeasure with Trump’s administration, the rest was written in stone. He told USA Today’s Sam Amick:
[The Warriors] don’t stand for basically what our President has — the things that he’s said and the things that hasn’t said in the right times … And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country, and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.
The President was not happy with the criticism. He immediately withdrew Golden State’s already-declined invitation.
This response sent ripples through the NBA. Other players, like LeBron James, commented on the matter.
The Warriors were never invited after their ensuing Championship. Despite Trump saying he was open to inviting the Toronto Raptors to the White House, it is safe to say that they may never be invited,
When the Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl, a White House celebration was also planned. However, a large portion of the team and personnel announced they would not attend in protest of Trump and his administration. So, the president canceled the event and celebrated the flag instead.
Although Trump claimed it was in part due to flag protests, other reports revealed that only two players had agreed to show up, which sent the President into a fit of rage. The Eagles claimed they did not care and quickly rescheduled events around D.C.
Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm
Since President Trump took office, no WNBA Champion has been invited — and this may not be a coincidence. Like NBA players, WNBA players have spoken out against the president. Seattle Storm superstar Sue Bird — who’s in a relationship with USWNT’s Rapinoe — was one of the first to comment on the likely spurning the year after the Lynx lacked an invite:
“We paid attention to what happened with Minnesota not getting invited,” Bird told ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. Everyone knew when everything happened with Steph Curry and LeBron [James] on social media … We all pay attention.” Bird also famously penned a letter in support of her girlfriend for The Players’ Tribune.
As long as Trump is in office, his war with athletes past and present will likely continue. Knowing who will and will not be invited will likely hinge on their public relationships with the president. The USWNT are the latest team to engage in this feud, but they will likely not be the last.