The 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs intend to make their visit to the White House while former Illinois Senator (and die-hard White Sox fan) Barack Obama still holds office as President of the United States. This case is unusual due to the fact that most championship teams traditionally visit the White House during the middle of the next season. This early visit may make some wonder whether the team is visiting on the last days of the Obama administration due to Obama’s Chicago roots or due to the fact that the incoming President-Elect Donald Trump has become such a controversial figure.
As a result of how controversial Donald Trump is, it will be interesting to see how the visits from future championship-winning sports teams will be like going forward. For example, many members of the Cleveland Cavaliers have made public their negative views on Mr. Trump, going as far as to refuse to stay at Trump Hotels during road trips. At least four other NBA teams have been reported to have changed their regular travel plans by opting not to go to Trump hotels since the election. Additionally, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr went on a 3 minute rant the day after the election about how disappointed he, his players, and his family was over the fact that Trump won the election before a game against the Mavericks.
When Mr. Trump announced at his rallies shortly before the election that Patriots QB Tom Brady called him to say that he intended to vote for him, Brady and his wife were questioned as to whether or not this was true. According to Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, Brady did not vote for Trump. When Brady was later questioned as to who he voted for, he said that he and his wife decided not to get into political talks. Similarly, at one of his rallies shortly before the election, Mr. Trump read a letter out loud sent to him from Patriots coach Bill Belichick congratulating him on a good campaign. When Belichick was asked about it, he said that he has been friends with Trump for a long time, but that the letter wasn’t politically motivated.
With many athletes and coaches attempting to distance themselves from Mr. Trump, it will be interesting to see how players on championship teams will act if and when they are invited to the White House by Mr. Trump. Many athletes have already gone on to say that if they are invited, they won’t show up. Additionally, fans of these teams and athletes with differing political views in either case may stop supporting them.
While back in the 1960s and 70s many athletes were encouraged to express their political opinions on key issues at the time, such as the Vietnam War and the CIvil Rights Movement, athletes today may face negative blowback from fans or the press for expressing their political opinions today. For example, depending on who you ask, some may see QB Colin Kaepernick as a hero for his silent protest of taking a knee during the national anthem as a way of expressing frustration over Civil Rights issues in today’s America, while others will say he is a coward or an idiot for going against a song that is meant to symbolize America’s freedom. While it is still debatable as to whether or not the Cubs early White House visit is politically motivated or due to the fact that the outgoing President is an Illinois native, it will definitely be interesting to see the turnout rate for future champions invited to the White House over the next four to eight years.