Championship teams visiting the White House has turned into a mess — here is how Trump and the teams have wrecked the tradition

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • In the first two-plus years of President Donald Trump’s administration, 20 major sports teams have won championships, but only ten celebrated at the White House.
  • Trump did not invite many of the teams, and some of those made it clear that they would not have attended even if he had.
  • Of the teams that did go to the White House, many of the ceremonies made headlines for either how the players or Trump handled the trip.
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When the Boston Red Sox visit the White House this week, the manager and one-third of the players will not be present, with Joey Cora citing President Donald Trump’s handling of the devastation from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

In a little over two years since Trump took office, 20 teams in major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA, college football, men’s and women’s college basketball) have won championships, and during that time, the long-standing tradition of title-winners visiting the White House has turned into a bit of a circus.

Half of the 20 teams were either not invited or declined the invitation for varying reasons. The ceremonies for the other half either raised eyebrows or were marred by various reasons, including the absence of notable players, the presence of players who looked unhappy, teams that appeared to be embarrassed about the trip, and the growing habit of serving fast food to world-class athletes.

Below we take a look at every championship that did not go to the White House and the circumstances that surrounded those that did.


2016 Clemson Tigers — college football champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Before the visit, head coach Dabo Swinney was asked if his team would go to the White House: “Absolutely. I don’t care who’s in the White House. An opportunity to visit the White House is a special privilege. Put all of the political stuff aside, this is a unique experience for everyone involved.”


2016 New England Patriots — Super Bowl champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Half of the players did not attend the ceremony, including Tom Brady. At least five players cited objections to Trump as their reason for not participating.

Source: Boston.com


2016-17 North Carolina Tar Heels — men’s college basketball champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: UNC head coach Roy Williams had been critical of Trump and when asked after winning the title if the team would go, answered, “Let me think on it.” The team was eventually invited but cited scheduling conflicts in declining the invitation.

Source: USA Today


2016-17 South Carolina Gamecocks — women’s college basketball champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: Head coach Dawn Staley initially said the team would go, saying, “it’s what national champions do.” South Carolina was the first women’s hoops champs not to be invited in 34 years.

Source: TheState.com


Jimmie Johnson — 2016 NASCAR champion

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Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: It has been reported that Johnson did not visit the White House after Trump took office due to scheduling conflicts on both sides. Previously, NASCAR said Johnson was never invited but said that was not unusual because of the transition from one administration to another.


2016-17 Golden State Warriors — NBA champions

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Steve Kerr reportedly decided early on that he would not accept an invitation to the White House.
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Jason Miller/Getty Images

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: Steve Kerr reportedly decided months before the playoffs that he would not go to the White House if the team won. Stephen Curry later said he “wouldn’t go,” but said he wanted to talk to his teammates before making a final decision. Kerr later added that he wanted the team to consider going and the positive ramifications that could come out of it. After Curry’s comments, Trump tweeted, “invitation is withdrawn!” LeBron James then famously called the president a “bum” for withdrawing an invite after Curry already said he wasn’t going.

Read more: Trump attacks Stephen Curry, disinvites the Golden State Warriors from the White House in early morning tweet


2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins — NHL champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: The Penguins were noticeably quiet about their trip to the White House, not sharing any photos of the event on social media. That was in stark contrast to the year before when they visited the Obama White House.

Read more: The Pittsburgh Penguins were eerily quiet about their visit to Trump’s White House


2017 Minnesota Lynx — WNBA champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: Trump did not invite the Lynx, and head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said: “that has certainly been disappointing.” They visited the White House three times during the Obama administration following championships. The team chose to spend their next trip to D.C. handing out shoes to low-income children.


2017 Houston Astros — World Series champions

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Jose Altuve did not look happy to be at the White House.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Stars Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran skipped the trip. The ceremony made headlines when AL MVP Jose Altuve seemingly glared at Trump throughout much of the function.

Read more: Jose Altuve had an awkward day with Trump while the Astros visited the White House – and the images are amazing


2017 various non-revenue college championship teams

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The University of Washington rowing team was one of 18 championship teams invited to the White House for a single ceremony in 2017.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: While not one of the major sports, Trump hosted 18 championship teams at the White House from non-revenue sports such as rowing, equestrian, skiing, wrestling, softball, and volleyball.

Read more: Trump hosted 18 NCAA championship-winning teams to celebrate their titles – and the photos were great


2017 Alabama Crimson Tide — college football champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Only one player missed the trip to the White House as head coach Nick Saban made the trip a requirement. The mandate was given to the team during a team meeting that was later recalled by one of the players: “Coach Saban addressed it and just said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this regardless of your political thoughts. We’re going, just to celebrate this team. It’s an honor. And just to be able to say that you’ve gone to the White House is something that you can cherish forever.’ So that was basically the extent of that.”

Source: AL.com


2017 Philadelphia Eagles — Super Bowl champions

Invited to White House? Yes, but later disinvited

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: Trump disinvited the Eagles after reports indicated that as few as two or three players would attend the ceremony. The mayor of Philadelphia then called Trump “a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size.” The White House instead hosted a ceremony for “Eagles fans” to celebrate the American flag. When most of the 1,000 fans showed up in business suits and only one Eagles jersey was observed, many speculated that the event was staged.

Read more: There is mounting speculation that the White House ceremony for Eagles fans did not have any Eagles fans


2017-18 Villanova Wildcats — men’s college basketball champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: The Wildcats were not invited to the White House. The team previously visited the Obama White House following their 2016 championship. Head coach Jay Wright called that trip “the experience of a lifetime for all of us.


2017-18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish — women’s college basketball champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: Head coach Muffet McGraw would not commit to a White House visit when asked after winning the championship. She said, “we’ll discuss it with the team and make a decision if the offer is extended.” The offer never came.


Martin Truex Jr — 2017 NASCAR champion

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Martin Truex Jr presents Trump with a race helmet.
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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Truex was the first NASCAR champion to visit the Trump White House and presented the president with a helmet.


2017-18 Golden State Warriors — NBA champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: During the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James said neither team wanted to visit the White House. Not surprisingly, no invitation was extended. During the team’s next trip to D.C., the Warriors met with Obama instead.


2017-18 Washington Capitals — NHL champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Several players skipped the trip, with star goalie Braden Holtby saying he wished “to stay true to my values.” There was no official ceremony or media availability during the visit.

Source: CNN.com


2018 Seattle Storm — WNBA champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: The Storm were not invited, but would have likely rejected the invitation if one had come. Star Sue Bird said: “It doesn’t feel exciting. Nobody wants to go. It’s totally changed and that’s disappointing because it used to be something that most athletes looked forward to.”

Source: Seattle Times


2018 Boston Red Sox — World Series champions

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The Boston Red Sox were supposed to visit the White House before the government shutdown.
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Harry How/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Expected to attend

One thing to know: The Red Sox were supposed to visit the White House in February, but the trip was postponed due to the government shutdown. At least eight players will not attend the May 9 make-up date, including Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and David Price. Manager Joey Cora, who is from Puerto Rico and was critical of Trump after Hurricane Maria, has also said he will skip the ceremony, saying he does “not feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.

Source: NECN.com; Britni de la Cretaz


2018 Clemson Tigers — college football champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: With the White House on a reduced staff during the government shutdown, Trump famously served the Clemson football team fast food, including Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King.

Read more: Trump greets Clemson Tigers with fast-food buffet of Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King as they celebrate their national championship


2018 North Dakota State Bison — FCS college football champions

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: North Dakota State was the first FCS champion to go to the White House since Bill Clinton invited Youngstown State in 1995. Like Clemson, they were served fast food.

Read more: Trump serves another college football team a fast-food feast to celebrate championship


2018 New England Patriots — Super Bowl champions

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It is unknown if Tom Brady will attend the White House ceremony.
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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Expected to attend

One thing to know: No date has been set for a Patriots visit, but after winning the Super Bowl, Trump said, “I’m sure they’ll be back.” Tom Brady was asked if he would attend the ceremony this year, but deflected the question, saying, “Next question, I mean, god,” while shaking his head.


2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers — men’s college basketball champions

Invited to White House? No

Attended White House ceremony? No

One thing to know: It is unknown if Trump would have invited UVA, but head coach Tony Bennett already said the team would not visit the White House, explaining that it would be “difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together.


2018-19 Baylor Bears — women’s college basketball champions

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The Baylor women’s basketball team presented Trump with a jersey.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Invited to White House? Yes

Attended White House ceremony? Yes

One thing to know: Baylor was the first women’s team to get their own ceremony at the Trump White House to celebrate a championship. The team was also served fast food in what appears to be a new tradition, at least for college teams.

Read more: Trump served another college championship team fast food in what is becoming a new White House tradition


Joey Logano — 2018 NASCAR champion