The victory tour for Super Bowl champions historically has consisted of a trip to Disney World for the most valuable player, a parade for the team through the city to celebrate with the hometown fans, and a congratulatory visit to the White House.
That ceased becoming an automatic after politics turned into a virtual combat sport and some teams in a variety of sports turned down the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C.
The Kansas City Chiefs hadn’t committed in the immediate aftermath of the 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, but the early sentiment points to at least some of their players and coaches being interested in accepting the invitation to meet the president after receiving a congratulatory tweet from Donald Trump.
The White House visits by champions began in 1924
Team trips to the White House date back more than a century and a half, beginning with two amateur baseball teams meeting with President Andrew Johnson in 1865. Four years later, Ulysses S. Grant issued the first invitation to a professional team, baseball’s Cincinnati Red Stockings.
Calvin Coolidge brought the 1924 Washington Senators to the White House to mark the first visit by a World Series champion, and John F. Kennedy extended the opportunity to NBA champions beginning with the Boston Celtics in 1963.
The first NCAA basketball champion to visit was Bobby Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, who met with Gerald Ford, and the NFL joined the mix in 1980 as Jimmy Carter met the Pittsburgh’s two champions, the Steelers and Pirates.
Hockey came onboard when George H.W. Bush greeted the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. He scored another first by bringing the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays to the White House, marking the inaugural ceremony honoring a team based outside the United States.
George W. Bush added to the list of ceremonies by designating a day for NCAA champions to be recognized at the White House. Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR team visited with Barack Obama three times.
More than a few invitations have been declined
The decision about whether to accept or decline invitations has become a matter of controversy in the current political environment, but there were notable individual absences at ceremonies before Donald Trump took office.
Basketball players Larry Bird and Michael Jordan turned down Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, respectively. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all skipped out on appearances with Barack Obama.
Only about two-thirds of the Patriots made the trip to meet Trump in 2017, and the team cited scheduling problems for not making an appearance after triumphing in Super Bowl LIII. Trump rescinded his invitation to the previous year’s Super Bowl champs after multiple Philadelphia Eagles said they were boycotting at a time when protests during the national anthem were near their peak.
No NBA champion has appeared with the president during the Trump administration. The president rescinded one of the invitations to the Golden State Warriors over comments by players who said they would not attend.
Several Kansas City Chiefs are saying yes
An invitation hasn’t been issued yet, but Kansas City Chiefs players who were asked after the Super Bowl said they were receptive to the idea of meeting the president.
Visits by NFL teams traditionally take place in the offseason. Champions in other pro sports usually incorporate visits into trips the following season to play regular-season games in Washington or nearby Baltimore. The Chiefs are scheduled to play the Ravens in 2020 in Baltimore, though the date of the game has not been announced.