#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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How will Trump’s immigration ban affect sports?

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Many in the sports world are trying to figure out how President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration will affect their respective sports.

The executive order blocks entry into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim Nations – Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan – for 90 days.

It also suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Over the weekend, sports officials sought to understand the implications of the President’s ban, and whether athletes from the prohibited nations could enter the U.S to compete, especially in the initial 90-day period.

The NBA has already contacted the U.S. Department of State in an effort to deduce how the ban might affect player travel.

“We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in out league who are from one of the impacted countries” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the best best players from around the world.”

(Can I just mention how much I appreciate both the NBA and WNBA for their consistent fight for equality and inclusion and their willingness to stand up for civil rights and social issues?)

Here in Los Angeles, Laker forward Luol Deng finds himself at the center of this mess.

Deng was born in Sudan (now called South Sudan) and fled before the country split in 2011. As noted, Sudan is one of the countries whose inhabitants have been banned from entering the US for three months.

Deng managed to escape the country’s Civil War and travel to Egypt with his father, finally finding asylum in the United Kingdom.

But his is a dual citizen and his British passport do not guarantee re-entry into the US.

Under Trump’s executive order, dual citizens are at risk of being detained and deported upon their return.

Basically, no one knows what the hell is going on.

Meanwhile, the #LA2024 Bid Committee, led by Chairman Casey Wasserman, CEO Gene Sykes, and Mayor Eric Garcetti, is wondering what impact he ban will have on their effects to bring the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the city of Los Angeles.

Mayor Garcetti has been very vocal regarding his stance against Trump’s immigration orders. He has let it be known that Los Angeles will continue to accommodate all refugees.

“Los Angeles will always be a place of refuge, where the most vulnerable people fleeing war, or religious political oppression, can find a safe and welcoming home,” Garcetti said.

The International Olympic Committee will meet on September 13th in Lima, Peru, to choose the host city and this immigration ban has no doubt thrown a wrench into LA’s bid.

Richard Perkin, a member of the IOC who will be voting in September for the 2024 host city posted his concern via Twitter that the actions of the President may cause our city to lose out in the bidding.

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The stakes are high for athletes and the city of Los Angeles regarding Trump’s new regulation restricting access to America.

And the frustrating part is, we have no idea how this is going to play out or how we should prepare.

Stay tuned.

#SportBits

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