It’s a tradition that the President of the United States typically invites the NBA and WNBA champions to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW the year after they win the Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title and the Los Angeles Sparks won the WNBA title in the last calendar year. Then-President Barack Obama invited the Cavaliers to the White House and sent a letter to the Sparks days before he left office on January 20, 2017.
And on that date, Donald Trump succeeded Obama. Unlike Obama, who is a Democrat, Trump is a Republican. Therefore, most of us can expect policy shifts. But without going into the politics of it, some parts of Trump’s agenda haven’t gone so well with many notable sports figures.
A considerable number of Patriots football players did not go to the White House after they won the Super Bowl this year after they received an invite from President Trump. The Warriors, who won the 2017 NBA Finals, haven’t received an invite from the President yet, but some of their players like Stephen Curry voiced that they aren’t willing to.
You can add the Washington Mystics to the list of sports teams who won’t go to 160 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest — if they get the opportunity.
The Mystics are one team that is contending for the WNBA title this year. In addition, the Mystics are the WNBA team closest to the White House, so their players were often invited to the White House for charity events in the past. But should the Mystics win the WNBA Finals this season, multiple members of the organization won’t accept an invite from the President, according to Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post.
Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, and GM/Head Coach Mike Thibault all indicated that they would refuse to go to the White House if invited because among other things, the President’s agenda or alleged treatment of certain groups of people isn’t aligning with their views.
You’ll also learn that Thibault even campaigned for former Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy before his assassination in 1968. The players talked about a White House visit at length after meeting John Lewis, a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia earlier this month.
Some other players, however, seemed to be more willing to accept an invitation, at least in the past. Last winter, Emma Meesseman told Paul Cobbaert of De Zondag in Roeselare, West Flanders, Belgium that she wouldn’t decline an invitation from the President, even though she’s not a fan of his. I’d imagine Meesseman isn’t a fan after President Trump called Brussels, Belgium a “hellhole” last year when he was running for President.
In Steinberg’s article, Thibault didn’t intend on being politically partisan when he voiced his opinion on the President:
“I’m not trying to be dramatic about it; I just think it’s important that you stand up for what you think’s right,” Thibault said. “I don’t know if it’s the teacher part of me or the activist part of me, I don’t know what it is. I just feel like I want them to stand for something, whatever it is.”
Ultimately, traditions like inviting sports league champions is at President Trump’s discretion. But considering that the Warriors and that many players of at least one contending WNBA team are reluctant to make the trip, I’m not sure if the President will invite them this year or at all.