Inviting national sports champions to the White House is a non-partisan tradition that dates back to at least the 1960s. But ever since President Donald Trump moved into the home on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last year, the generally lauded Washington invite is getting some of the nation’s top athletes tangled up in a web of presidential politics.
The Boston Red Sox, who are visiting the White House on Thursday, are the latest team to be faced with the Trump dilemma. Fresh off their historic World Series win back in November, the team's manager Alex Cora announced that he plans to skip a potential White House visit because he wants to use the team's platform in the right way.
And now that the Sox are set to be honored by Trump, nearly a dozen players of color, including American League MVP Mookie Betts, have said they will also skip the ceremony. Meanwhile, each white player on the team as well as J.D. Martinez, who is of Cuban origin, were expected to attend, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, Cora told a Puerto Rican newspaper he "doesn't feel comfortable celebrating" at the White House because of the way Trump has handled natural disaster relief following Hurricane Maria, which struck his home of Puerto Rico in September of 2017.
Cora traveled to the island in January 2018 to provide assistance from the destruction left by Hurricane Maria, and previously expressed frustration with the president's comments on Puerto Rico.
“It’s a little bit, kind of like frustrating that the topic keeps coming and coming and coming. What’s the point? Honestly, you know?” Cora said in September. “And I respect him. He’s the president of the United States, but I don’t agree with a lot of what he says about us.”
Although several athletes have skipped the visit with past administrations — often citing scheduling conflicts — boycotts in the Trump era have been increasingly public, and several athletes have cited their opposition to Trump as their reason for skipping.
Here are a few notable examples:
Trump welcomed Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to the Oval Office in March and praised the 2018 Stanley Cup champions as "winners" who could bring the Cup back to D.C. again soon.
"Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular — a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!" he tweeted.
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular - a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2018
Although the majority of the Capitals visited the White House this year, Devante Smith-Pelly, one of two black players on the team, said during the playoffs in June that he would not attend, and specifically cited his opposition to Trump.
"The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” the Canadian player said of the president. “Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with."
Brett Connolly became the second Washington Capitals player to announce that he intends to skip his team’s visit to the White House.
"For me, I just don't think it's the right thing to do." Connolly said in August, according to Sports Illustrated. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think there'll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics, it's about what's right and wrong, and we'll leave it at that."
Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said in June that visiting the White House is “a very sensitive issue” for his team.
“If you don’t have the same belief as somebody else then automatically they think you’re wrong and they take it personally, which politics isn’t supposed to be that way," he added. "You’re allowed to have disagreement, but my opinion is that you’re supposed to respect the other person’s decision.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup in June 2017, visited the White House in October, but amid some opposition from fans.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan explained that, "Nobody's choosing a side … We are simply honoring our championship and the accomplishments of this group of players."
The Golden State Warriors, who won the NBA championship both years that Trump has been in office, largely planned to boycott the visit in 2017, and were promptly disinvited by Trump.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted after Warriors star player Steph Curry told reporters that he would not attend.
"U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!" NBA star LeBron James, one of Trump's most vocal critics in sports, tweeted at the time.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
In June 2018, ahead of the championship game between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Trump told reporters that neither team would be getting a White House invitation.
"We're not going to invite either team ... If they don't want to be here, I don't want them," Trump said.
James, who was the Cleveland Cavaliers' star player before joining the Los Angeles Lakers this season, accused Trump of trying to "divide" Americans and said ahead of the big game in June that if his team won, he would also skip the visit.
The Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm, who won the past two WNBA championships were not invited to the White House at all.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle Storm, who won their third WNBA championship in September 2018, confirmed to ABC News that the team still had not received an invitation from the White House.
"I can confirm that the White House did not reach out to the Storm following the 2018 WNBA Championship," the Storm's public relations manager Riley Foreman told ABC News, but she did not indicate whether the women would have accepted the invitation had they received an invite. ABC News has reached out to the White House but a request for comment was not returned.
According to ESPN, the Storm's star point guard Sue Bird indicated in September she has no interest in visiting the Trump White House and her team is pretty much on the "same page."
"I'm sure [President Trump] is going to say we're not invited anyway, so it all works out well," she said.
Bird, who visited the White House under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama as both a college and national basketball champ, said that she and her teammates "paid attention to what happened with Minnesota not getting invited. Everyone knew when everything happened with Steph Curry and LeBron [James] on social media, all that stuff. We all pay attention, and we watch."
Meanwhile' Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx's coach and general manager, said in September that "it's hard not to think" that sexism played a role in the Lynx not getting an invite.
"It’s hard not to think that gender is playing a role here because of the consistency with which men’s teams are being invited and celebrated,” she told The Washington Post. “I think it reflects the priorities of this particular administration.”
"Presidents have recognized WNBA Champs dating back to Houston Comets," Reeve tweeted, noting that the Trump White House has hosted male teams ranging from NFL champions, to college football champs from various leagues.
ABC News has reached out to the White House, but multiple requests for comment were not returned.
Trump's relationship with the National Football League has been especially contentious after the president ignited a feud in September 2017 with players who take a knee during the National Anthem to protest racism and repeatedly slammed league owners for allowing the protests to take place.
More than a year later, Trump has continued to bring up the topic in interviews, public appearances and on social media, injecting himself into a nationwide debate on patriotism and dissent in America.
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time in the franchise's history, and while the team was initially invited to the White House, Trump announced in June that the visit had been canceled.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
"The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!" Trump tweeted.
Several players, including safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Torrey Smith, who famously raised their fists to protest racism during the national anthem, had already indicated that they would not attend.
Then, not even a few hours after Trump's favorite team — the New England Patriots — won the Super Bowl in 2017, several players had already announced that they would boycott a visit to the White House.
This thrusted the Patriots' star quarterback Tom Brady, who has been personal friends with Trump for years, into the political spotlight.
Brady, who had generally been evasive when asked about his relationship with the president, found himself at the center of relentless media speculation over his plans to attend, which ended with a surprise no-show from the quarterback.
Citing “family matters," Brady thanked Trump for hosting the team at the White House in a statement, saying, "In light of some recent developments, I am unable to attend today's ceremony, as I am attending to some personal family matters. Hopefully, if we accomplish the goal of winning a championship in the future years, we will back on the South Lawn again soon."
The Patriots won the Super Bowl again in 2019, but an official date for their White House visit has not been announced.
When asked if he plans to attend by a reporter in in February, Brady dismissed the topic, saying, "next question."
I asked Brady if he had plans on going to the White House for the Super Bowl celebration. “Next question.” @NBC10Boston— Perry Russom NBC10 Boston (@PerryNBCBoston) February 7, 2019
The Clemson Tigers, who were the first sports team to be famously served a selection of fast food when visiting the White House in January, were hosted by Trump twice for winning the 2017 and 2019 NCAA football championships. And the Alabama Crimson Tide visited the White House last April after winning in 2018.
President Trump at White House event honoring the North Dakota State Bison: "We had the Clemson Tigers here and I did the same thing. We could have had chefs, we could have, but we got fast food because you know what, I know you people very well" https://t.co/AfEIFrfeM5 pic.twitter.com/RMxeclDZEI— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 4, 2019
While Trump has hosted each of the NCAA college football champions as president, when it comes to basketball, the visits and the invitations have not been consistent.
The Baylor University Lady Bears became the first women's sports team to be hosted by Trump at the White House last week.
President Trump is presented with team swag while welcoming 2019 NCAA women’s basketball national champions, the Baylor Lady Bears, to the White House.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 29, 2019
"Am I allowed to wear it? I'll mess up my hair, but that's OK," Trump jokes as he tries on the hat https://t.co/AfEIFrfeM5 pic.twitter.com/YEVztJUoec
But the University of Virginia men's basketball team, who won the championship this year, announced last month that they will not be visiting the White House.
“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House. With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation," head coach Tony Bennett said.
"We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House. With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.” - Tony Bennett— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) April 26, 2019
The Villanova Wildcats won the 2018 NCAA men’s tournament in April last year, but nearly eight months after their win coach Jay Wright told reporters that the team had not received a White House invitation.
The 2017 NCAA men's basketball champs, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, were invited by Trump, but skipped the event, citing a scheduling conflict.
Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said at the time that the university and White House tried “eight or nine” dates but none of them worked.