Mary Margaret Olohan on November 4, 2019
- A number of Nationals players declined to attend a Monday White House ceremony honoring their World Series win.
- The move is not unprecedented: Many notable athletes chose to forgo former President Barack Obama’s invites to the White House.
- The list of athletes who declined include Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
A number of famous athletes declined invites to visit the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Washington Nationals players Anthony Rendon, Javy Guerra, Joe Ross, Wander Suero, Wilmer Difo, Michael A. Taylor, Victor Robles, Roenis Elías and Sean Doolittle declined President Donald Trump’s invititation to the White House Monday following the Nationals’s World Series win.
But these Nationals players are not the first notable athletes to turn down a presidential invitation.
Athletes such as retired Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady turned down Obama’s invitation to come to the White House and were met with strong criticism from media.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Thomas turned down the White House invitation after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2012. The goaltender deplored the state of the federal government and said that he would exercise his right as a free citizen to not visit the White House.
“This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country,” Thomas said.
Thomas’s decision not to visit the White House in 2012 was widely criticized. U.S. News & World Report writer Susan Milligan headlined a story on the incident that said his decision was not brave, “it was just rude.” ESPN writer Joe McDonald wrote that Thomas chose to put himself above the team through his decision not to attend.
“When the president of the United States invites you and all your teammates to the White House to honor your Stanley Cup championship, you go and represent the team,” McDonald wrote.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady similarly turned down an Obama invite in 2015, citing a “family obligation.” The New York Post slammed Brady, saying “[s]ome patriot,” and calling the move “deflating.”
“What every Buffalo Bills (fan) already knew: Tom Brady is no patriot,” tweeted Bills fan and now-Center for Public Integrity editor Dave Levinthal.
— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) April 23, 2015
“So Tom Brady couldn’t attend, huh? So Tom Brady couldn’t attend,” ESPN’s Steven A. Smith said in an April 24 edition of “First Take,” referring to Brady’s attendance at three post-Super Bowl ceremonies with former President George W. Bush. “But was he there in 2001 when George W. Bush was president? Yes. Was he there in 2003 and 2004?”
“But when George W. Bush was president in 2001, 2003, 2004, Tom Brady was there,” Smith added. “Tom Brady was there at the White House celebrating.”
Dan Hampton, Chicago Bears
Former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton declined an offer as well when Obama invited the Bears to the White House in 2011 to celebrate their 1986 Super Bowl win. Hampton said he was “no fan” of Obama.
Former Bears tight end Tim Wrightman criticized his teammate’s decision, saying, “This is the Bears’ once in a lifetime opportunity that has been given a second chance.”
“Some people don’t realize our initial trip in 1986 was cancelled because of the Challenger space shuttle accident,” Wrightman wrote in a Facebook post. “I think it was a classy thing for Obama to right the misfortune of our team. Besides, the White House is not President Obama’s house it’s the people’s house.”
The Bleacher Report’s Eric Bowman slammed Hampton’s words as “selfish.”
“The only Super Bowl in the Bears’ history, and he doesn’t want to commemorate it because he doesn’t like the guy who happens to be living in the White House,” Bowman wrote in 2011. “Can you say selfish?”
James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison did not take Obama up on his invite to the White House in 2009 in what ESPN called his “White House snub.” The linebacker also declined an invite from Bush in 2006.
“I don’t feel the need to go, actually,” Harrison told WTAE-TV in 2009. “I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal to me.”
“This is how I feel. If you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl,” Harrison said. “As far as I’m concerned, he (Obama) would’ve invited Arizona if they had won.”
The move was an “‘F’ You to Obama,” the Bleacher Report’s Dumont Walker wrote in the headline of his story.
Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens
Former Ravens center Matt Birk said he skipped a White House ceremony with Obama in 2013 specifically because of Obama’s abortion stances.
“I would say this — I would say that I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood,’” Birk said in 2013.
“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,” he said. “I am Catholic. I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.”
Several other athletes declined to visit the White House under the Obama administration. Former Denver Broncos player Brock Osweiler did not join his former teammates in visiting the White House in 2016, blaming his absence on his new practice schedule with the Houston Texans. Broncos player Derek Wolfe also skipped out on the visit, saying he “had a lot of stuff going on, things to do.”
Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta cited family matters as a reason not to travel to the White House with his team in January 2017. Following the 2016 election, Arrieta had tweeted, “Time for Hollywood to pony up and head for the border #illhelpyoupack #beatit,” but the pitcher later denied that the tweet was of a political nature and said that he did not vote during the presidential election.
“I was simply calling out people who have a tremendous platform of millions of followers that said they were going to leave the country if Trump was elected,” Arrieta said, according to NBC sports. “I was basically calling their bluff. If you don’t want to live here … then beat it.”
NASCAR stars Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart turned down Obama’s invitation in 2011 citing “scheduling conflicts” — a move Business Insider dubbed as both a snub and as “strange.”
Former Cardinal players Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa similarly declined to visit the White House in 2012. Neither of them cited politics, though The Week noted that both participated in Blaze CEO Glenn Beck’s 2010 Tea Party rally.