“I’m not going to the fucking White House…,” said Megan Rapinoe last Tuesday.
Rapinoe, a player for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, has scored four goals in her team’s last two games and will need to come up big for the United States team to win their next two games and win the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
This is where the White House visit would come in, as for over 50 years American athletes that won their respective leagues/tournaments would be invited to the White House by the president.
Visiting the White House after achieving the pinnacle of your profession used to be an honor. Now, it doesn’t seem that way. For athletes, the visit was the next step in a continued victory lap. It was often a grand honor, a time of further reflection, and a day to be remembered and proud of.
Athletes have skipped out on visiting the White House for years, and for many reasons. Tom Brady didn’t visit the White House when Barack Obama was in office, citing a family commitment. Michael Jordan didn’t visit in 1991, because he decided he wanted to play golf instead.
But for every missed visit, there seemed to be double the amount of happy and appreciative athletes visiting.
You can see Rapinoe, the United States soccer star, happily visiting the White House in 2015 when the United States Women’s National Soccer Team won the previous World Cup.
We know what’s changed. There is an egomaniacal, repugnant, callous man in office who operates with no regard for the well-being of American citizens. The man is selfishly and completely drowned in his own interests.
The Golden State Warriors, fresh off winning the NBA Championship in 2017, decided not to visit the White House, along with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, after enough players voiced that they would not visit (though the president tried to claim that there was no invitation for them to decline).
This growing trend to not visit the White House if certain policies and practices by the regime in place are inhumane or opposed to one’s principles is a powerful one. Athletes have a bigger voice now than ever, and by declining what has always been seen as a great honor, they can send out an even stronger message.
Rapinoe, who has stated before that she will not visit the White House, further stated:
“I am not going to fake it. I have no interest in extending our platform to him.”
The president, a man adept at making everything about him, does not deserve to hop on the backs of a prestigious and successful team.
LeBron James, perhaps the biggest advocate for athletes controlling their futures and money, helped create a docuseries More Than an Athlete and is also a strong critic of the president.
Speaking up for the disenfranchised or simply declining a visit to the White House makes athletes more than just what they do with a jersey on.
Their platform gives them the ability to spread awareness and spark change. Athletes can be social warriors, activists, and beacons of hope and reason for the multitudes that follow and respect them.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
Danny Green, 2019 NBA Champion of the Toronto Raptors, recently said “It’s a hard no,” when asked if his team will be visiting the White House. The trend seems to be continuing, and with every player and team that declines, it just makes it easier for the next to do the same.
The president’s supporters continue to back him no matter what he does, but understand many people and athletes do not like him and his policies.
That much is clear and fine.
Whether her comments were just because of her own moral principles, or if she wanted to have her words resonate through the papers and internet, Rapinoe’s comments can have a lasting effect on other athletes or fans of her and her team.
An election is approaching, and words and actions by famous athletes hold massive weight. No matter who is in charge, not everyone will be happy. Athletes will pass on White House visits as they have always done.
But with the current regime in place, it is no accident that more players and teams are declining to visit. Additionally, it would not be a surprise that once the president is out of office, the invitation is widely considered a great honor once again.