#SportBits … A White House Tradition In Jeopardy

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There’s a longstanding tradition in this country of championship teams visiting the White House. But that tradition may be in jeopardy.

With more players opting out of the ceremonial visit, it’s almost become more of who doesn’t come, rather than who does.

According to Thomas Nuemann of ESPN, the tradition of sporting teams visiting the White House dates back to Aug. 30, 1865, when President Andrew Johnson welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs. John F. Kennedy was the first president to host the NBA champions, when the Boston Celtics visited in January 1963.

It is an honor, no doubt. But today, champions have to search their souls as to whether the honor is worth it.

UCONN women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma and his lady Huskies have visited so many times that former President Obama joked Auriemma had his own room. Recently, Auriemma was asked if the Huskies win their 12th title this year, would his team attend the White House ceremony?

“The fact that in all the 11 championships I’ve never been asked this question says something about where we are as a country,” Auriemma said. “Forget the answer. The fact that I’ve never been asked means there’s something going on that isn’t normal.”

Well, he’s got that right.

It’s not unheard of for athletes to skip the customary visit. Many have opted out but avoided controversy by saying their decision was based on other factors such as family commitments or scheduling conflicts.

But not in today’s political climate, where, thanks to the power of social media, athletes have been very vocal about their views.

So, it’s not surprising that athletes are struggling with the possibility of a White house visit and speaking out as to why. Six players from the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have said they are not going – five of whom say it’s because they do not feel welcome.

Mr. Auriemma said he is not sure what he’ll do if the team wins and his players object to a White House visit.

“What are you going to do as a coach?” he continued. “It’s not like I can look it up and go, ‘What did other people do?’ We’re in a world that very few of us could have conceived five years ago.”

Strange times indeed. Players are being praised on social media for speaking out while others are being pressured if they don’t.

If this trend of declining White House visits continues, it will be a PR problem for the leagues, teams, and the White House – so what should they do? Invite only a selected few (those who actually want to attend) to represent their team? This way, those who don’t want to go do not have to publicly “skip” the event.

Nope. I don’t like it. I want my sports figures to be socially active and speaking their minds. The PR folks will just have to figure it out.

What about you? What do you think?

#SportBits

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