On Nov. 4, the Washington Nationals were supposed to visit the White House as a celebration of their Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series win. Eight players, however, refused to be in attendance.
Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle was the first player to publicly confirm that he would not be visiting the White House.
“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric, the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance,” Doolittle told The Washington Post. “At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”
Doolittle wanted to be a part of the postseason activities with the team – who most likely won’t return in full the next season – but he also did not want to interfere with players who were excited to meet the president.
“People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president,” Doolittle said. “And I think over the course of his time in office he’s done a lot of things that maybe don’t respect the office.”
In addition to Doolittle, Anthony Rendon, Javy Guerra, Joe Ross, Wander Suero, Wilmer Difo, Michael Taylor and Victor Robles were not in attendance.
Doolittle was especially bothered by the visit to the White House because he supports multiple human rights organizations. These include aiding veterans, supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and respecting refugees. According to WUSA, a CBS network affiliate, in 2015, the Oakland Athletic’s pride night was criticized by some fans, so Doolittle and his wife, Eireen Dolan, bought 850 game tickets and donated them to LGBTQIA+ groups in their local area. In the same year, the couple hosted 17 Syrian refugee families at a Thanksgiving dinner in Chicago.
Doolittle was more public with his reasoning for avoiding the White House than his fellow teammates. However, he followed in the footsteps of multiple franchise players missing their White House visit due to personal and political affiliations.
The Golden State Warriors were disinvited by President Trump after their championship win in 2017, as Trump “revoked the standing invitation after guard Stephen Curry had previously said he would not want to attend,” according to The Guardian. The team also decided not to visit the President after their 2018 championship as well.
The White House also canceled on the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 because less than 10 players on the roster agreed to visit. In 2018, after the Washington Capitals’ first Stanley Cup win over the Vegas Golden Knights, goaltender Branden Holtby refused to attend as it was personal and he had to maintain his values.
In the end, many come to wonder why the President isn’t respected by major league team players. Though, it is clear that athletes uphold morals and maintain their values throughout their athletic careers. Trump, on the other hand, does not filter certain rhetoric, creating a distaste for progressive and moral athletes when visiting the White House is discussed.