When the Washington Nationals won the World Series, coverage of their victory was quickly overshadowed by reports of players refusing to participate in the traditional White House tour and photo op. Over the past few years it seems that whenever a sports team wins a championship, reports of players refusing to participate in the White House visit inevitably follow, and overshadow the event itself. I think it’s about time to put an end to this tradition. They can go to Disney World to celebrate, but in a nation that’s increasingly divided every year, there’s simply no way to separate these photo-ops from politics, so why try?
The tradition of sports teams getting invited to the White House on an annual basis (with a few exceptions) started in the late 1980s under President Reagan. We’ve come to expect that the team that wins the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Stanley Cup will get the usual White House visit and presidential photo op. The tradition of athletes snubbing the president of the United States is just as old.
In 1984, the Boston Celtics won the NBA Champions and were invited to the White House. But, MVP Larry Bird didn’t attend. “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me,’’ he said. In 1991, when George H.W. Bush was president, Michael Jordan skipped out on a White House visit with his teammates. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, Manny Ramirez skipped out both times.