President Jimmy Carter holds a Pittsburgh Pirates cap and a Pittsburgh Steelers "Terrible towel" as he meets both champion teams at the White House in Washington on Feb. 22, 1980.
Photo: Harvey Georges/AP
Photo: Harvey Georges/AP

Champions’ White House visits often filled with no-shows, controversy

Championship teams have visited the White House on an annual basis, dating back to the days of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Under the Trump administration, the visits — intended to celebrate American athletic excellence and a photo-op of the Commander in Chief hoisting a team jersey with his name — have become a political football.

The reigning World Series champion Red Sox are the next team — well, some of the team — poised to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Thursday.

Nearly a dozen players, and manager Alex Cora, have said they will skip today’s ceremony.

It is not a phenomenon new to American sports. Players on previous teams in all major sports have skipped White House visits under previous administrations. 

It has been more common recently with members of the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles and the entire Golden State Warriors championship team of 2018, opting to forgo a White House trip.

Here’s a look at other controversial White House stops and no-shows:

1980

• President Jimmy Carter was the first Commander in Chief to welcome a Super Bowl champion to the White House. The Pittsburgh Pirates, World Series winners, joined the Steelers in a dual ceremony.
“It was my honor and my pleasure to be present in the Pittsburgh locker room last fall on the final night of the World Series,” Carter said. “I escaped without getting tramped, by the skin of my teeth.”

1984

• Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Cedric Maxwell skipped the Boston Celtics’ visit to the White House to meet Reagan a day after winning the NBA  title. 
Bird later told a reporter, “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.”

1991 

• Michael Jordan opted to play a round of golf at Hilton Head, S.C., rather than join his Chicago Bulls teammates in visiting George H.W. Bush at the White House  to celebrate the franchise's first NBA championship.
• The New York Giants were not invited to visit Washington after winning the Super Bowl — just 10 days after the start Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, the start of the Gulf War.

1999-2000

• In the days following the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, the Denver Broncos never received a White House invite after their Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons. 
• The St. Louis Rams were invited to the White House after winning the Super Bowl at the Georgia Dome the following year, but the trip never took place after the White House rescinded its offer as it brokered a peace agreement in the Middle East.

2003

• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not receive an invitation to visit the George W. Bush White House for another Middle East conflict — Operation Iraqi Freedom.

2004 and 2007

• Manny Ramirez skipped a visit to the White House after two Red Sox World Series wins. He cited a his grandmother’s illness for his absence. “I guess his grandmother died again,” President Bush quipped after his second no-show. “Just kidding. Tell Manny I didn’t mean it.”

2005

• Northwestern national championship women's lacrosse team players pose for a picture with President Bush wearing flip-flops. Mothers everywhere shudder. 

2006 and 2009

• Steelers linebacker James Harrison twice missed visits to the White House after Super Bowl victories — under Presidents Bush and Obama. “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 in 2009.

2013

• Three members of the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins team — Manny Fernandez, Bob Kuechenberg and Jim Langer — decline an invitation by President Obama to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team’s feat. They cited their disliked of the president as the reason for their absence.

2015 and 2017

• New England quarterback Tom Brady skipped the visit to Washington, D.C., under President Obama and President Trump, suggesting he’d already been to the White House numerous times. He has not committed to visiting this year, following their Super Bowl win in Atlanta.

2017

• The Golden State Warriors say they’ll forgo a visit to the White House after winning the NBA title.  President Trump then withdrew the invite. The team instead spent a day with local children at an African-American history museum during a game stop in D.C.

• Neither NCAA Division I basketball champion — North Carolina, men’s; South Carolina, women’s — visited the White House due to scheduling conflicts or outright refusal to accept an invitation from President Trump.

2018

• A planned celebration of the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles was canceled because “the Eagles offered to send only a tiny handful of representatives” to the event, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

2019

• Clemson’s national championship football team was celebrated at the White House with a buffet of fast food offerings, supplied by President Trump during a partial government shutdown. 

• The NCAA Division I men’s basketball champion — Virginia Cavaliers — declined an invitation to visit Trump’s White House. Head coach Tony Bennett said, “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together.”

• Baylor’s Lady Bears  — the NCAA Division I women’s basketball champion —  then visited with President Trump in the Oval Office and presented him with a No. 1 “Trump” jersey. He again served a fast food buffet. 

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