So as rumors continue to spread that the newly minted NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, plan to unanimously refuse to visit the White House to be honored by President Trump, I think a few observations are in order.
First, this is a stupid tradition. I have never understood it or liked it – regardless of the president, regardless of the team. Yes, I know that from time to time the president takes on the ceremonial role as head-of-state. He flips the switch on the national Christmas tree, he pardons a turkey at Thanksgiving, he welcomes foreign heads of state, etc. But this practice of famous athletes visiting the White House and giving the president a jersey with his name on it is tired, tedious, and smacks of a royal mentality rather than a republican one.
Second, no one should be surprised. Remember it was Golden State’s coach Steve Kerr that went on a multi-minute rant the day after the election about how he thought America was “better than this.” After listening again to Kerr seethe over Trump’s victory, it’s hard to imagine how he would feel comfortable going and meeting the man he unceremoniously trashed publicly. Ditto that on a number of his players.
Third, no one should have to meet a president they don’t want to. I know there will be a fair amount of Trump supporters say that the Warriors have a “duty” to visit the executive mansion. They don’t. It’s not contractual, it’s not part of the job description. And it’s not anything that a person should be forced to do.
Several years ago I had received two tickets to sit in a VIP section for the speech of former President Bill Clinton. I had no desire to meet the man, and so I contacted the local mayor who was a big Clinton fan. He and his wife were ecstatic to take the tickets – it meant something to them, and that is how it should be. Some people will think it’s tacky or shortsighted to miss the opportunity to meet a sitting president. It’s fine if they feel that way. But if the Warriors don’t, it’s their prerogative.
I have been personally annoyed by this tradition for years and am thrilled at the prospect that one of Donald Trump’s greatest contributions to the country may be driving entertainment and show business away from the White House. It shouldn’t be there. We don’t elect a superstar or a celebrity, and we saw for the last eight years the annoyance of having a president who thinks he is both.
So maybe the overriding disdain for Trump amongst the elite class in sports and entertainment will pay off in this instance. Of course, if I know President Trump, he won’t take this slight lying down.
I fully anticipate him doubling down on this and trying to load up his social schedule with as many athlete photo-ops as possible, accompanied by some tweets about how those who pose with him are “terrific” and “much better players than the losers and fourth best team from California.”