ABC News’ Barry Freeman reports:
President Barack Obama will welcome the 2009 Super Bowl XLIII Champion Pittsburgh Steelers to the White House on Thursday.
However, their star linebacker and reigning defensive player of the year James Harrison will not be in attendance.
In an interview, Harrison told Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV, "If you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl, so as far as I’m concerned he (Obama) would have invited Arizona if they had won."
It is unclear why Harrison would snub the White House invitation given the fact that Presidnet Obama, breaking from general presidential tradition, openly rooted for the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Adding to the puzzle: Harrison’s boss, Steelers owner Dan Rooney, endorsed and avidly campaigned for then-Sen. Obama during his run for the White House, which subsequently lead to Rooney’s nomination on St. Patrick’s Day as US Ambassador to Ireland.
Harrison, a 5 year veteran with the Steelers, also skipped the White House visit in 2006 following the Steeler’s Super Bowl XL win.
At the time Harrison was playing back-up and was among a handful of players who skipped the traditional White House visit for various reasons, including quarterback Tommy Maddox who was apparently unhappy about being released after the season ended. Former Steeler linebacker Joey Porter caused a bit of a stir that same year, when he said he intended to tell then-President George W. Bush that he didn’t like how the country was being run. Porter ultimately chose not to make those comments, and wore dark sunglasses through the entire ceremony.
The Steelers organization had no comment Monday, when asked by the Associated Press about Harrison’s comments.
"I don’t feel I actually need to go," Harrison said. "I don’t feel like it’s that big of deal to me."
He joked that maybe he would join his teammates after another six years when they aren’t the world champions, but when they have "10 or 11 rings."
That is of course, if they are invited.
- Barry Freeman