College team passes on White House visit… but there’s a twist


President Trump hosted a college champions event at the White House recently. It was a multi-team celebration that didn’t get much fanfare, probably due to the non-stop cable news coverage of Impeachmentpalooza. Invitations were extended to 22 championship teams or athletes. One college baseball team declined the invitation. That team’s absence was quickly rectified by another team’s acceptance.

Vanderbilt University’s baseball team, the 2019 College World Series champs, was unable to join the others at the White House for NCAA Collegiate National Champions Day. A travel schedule conflict was cited. A Vanderbilt spokesman said that the team “respectfully declined” to attend due to long-standing travel plans of the student-athletes to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The excuse sounds a bit odd, though, given that the event was six days before Thanksgiving. Most teams – like all the others who accepted the invitation – would have seen the chance to visit the White House and meet the president as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They all no doubt had holiday plans, too.

The 2018 Oregon State champion team jumped at the chance to take Vanderbilt’s place at the event. There was no similar event held in 2018 so the Oregon State Beavers didn’t get to attend such a celebration. Seventeen months after their victory, there they were at the White House with President Trump. A generous anonymous donor footed the bill for the team to go and their coach, now retired, went along, too. That is quite a pleasant twist to the trend of sports teams making political statements by snubbing the president’s invitations, right?

The head of Oregon State’s athletic department understood the well-deserved opportunity a trip to the White House would be for the team members.

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Ahead of the big event, Oregon State’s vice-president of intercollegiate athletics, Scott Barnes, said, “This will be a wonderful life experience for our student-athletes and a well-earned opportunity to celebrate this significant achievement.”

Beavers players presented Trump with a jersey during their visit.

Not everyone showed the same amount of gratitude for an invitation. The Columbia coed fencing team decided to make a statement. Their plan to deliver a letter to President Trump was foiled by Secret Service protocol. Apparently, dramatic gestures are frowned upon by the men and women who protect the president. The anti-Trump Washington Post was happy to report on it, though.

The event was not without controversy. Members of the Columbia coed fencing team wore large white lapel pins in a silent protest of Trump’s policies of “gender-based prejudice and partisanship,” and they planned to hand Trump a letter detailing grievances against his administration.

Team captains told The Post in interviews that White House staff said Secret Service agents would prevent them from handing the president the letter, though the team did present Trump with a gift — a customary procedure for most championship visits. Photos from the event showed Trump interacting closely with athletes from other teams, including signing the tie of a Stanford gymnast.

White House spokesman Judd Deere declined to comment on the fencing team’s letter, citing a policy of not commenting on Secret Service protocols.

Some of the teams were scheduled to meet President Trump on the South Lawn but rain forced the meeting inside. The rooms were crowded and the press was kept in the State Dining Room, along with four of the 22 teams present. Most of those honored earned their championship titles in 2019. 2018 men’s soccer champion Maryland and 2018 women’s volleyball champion Stanford were the only other 2018 champions besides the Oregon State baseball team.

What could have been another snarky story about some woke college athletes refusing an invitation to visit the White House and meet the most powerful man on Planet Earth turned out to have a happy twist. A team that otherwise would have missed out on congratulations from the president instead had their time in the spotlight. I’ll take that story over Impeachmentpalooza any day.

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