Why Should Sports Teams Be Visiting the White House?

As you’re no doubt aware by now, the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles were scheduled to visit the White House earlier this week, and then they ended up not going. There’s talk that the two teams in the NBA Finals don’t want to visit the White House either, apparently because of their antipathy for its current occupant.

I’m not interested in debating who’s “right” or “wrong” in those situations, because none of that is of any concern to us here at Uni Watch. But I do want to address a related point, a larger point — a point I’ve been thinking about for some time now. To wit: It’s time to end the ritual of championship teams visiting the White House altogether.

Here are some reasons why:

1. I see no reason why a president (or any other politician) should get a free photo op — which is essentially an exercise in political marketing — with championship athletes, especially when his official duties already give him plenty of photo ops with foreign heads of state, titans of industry, and so on.

2. I also see no reason why athletes should be expected to provide political marketing for a politician, including a president, with whose politics they may disagree.

3. These team visits and photo ops have become pathetically predictable and scripted-seeming over the years. It’s often painfully obvious that the president knows nothing about the team or the sport in question (which is understandable, of course). After the event, the president’s boilerplate souvenir jersey is whisked away to the National Archives to gather dust with all the other souvenir jerseys, and the whole thing ends up feeling perfunctory.

I can see having these visits if there’s a particularly strong bond between the president and a given team. Barack Obama, for example, was known to be a passionate White Sox fan, and George W. Bush was once a part owner of the Texas Rangers. So if those teams had won the World Series during those presidents’ respective terms in office, perhaps a team visit would have been warranted. Those visits would be special, instead of predictable and perfunctory.

4. If there’s one thing we have too much of in this country, it’s the culture of celebrity. Granting special White House access to elite athletes, who are already among the most overprivileged people in our society, just exacerbates that problem.

5. One of the nice things about rooting for a team is that it forms bonds between people of diverse backgrounds, diverse beliefs, and so on. But once you put the team in a political setting, a lot of that goes out the window. I’m sure there are now rival factions of Eagles fans who are sniping at each other on Twitter (or wherever) about the how the White House situation played out. If the White House invitation had never been issued to begin with, those fans would still be friends; now they’re just another reflection of our nation’s polarized politics.

Here’s another thought: One day, inevitably, we’re going to have a president who doesn’t much care about sports. (We’ve probably already had such presidents before, back before it became routine for championship teams to visit the White House.) When that happens, will that president still go through the ritual of pretending to give a shit about the Super Bowl champions who stop by for a visit? Or will he or she just dispense with the ritual altogether? I hope the latter. Let’s cut to the chase and scrap the ritual now.

I know many of you prefer to keep politics out of sports. By the same token, let’s keep sports out of our politics.

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Brannock-palooza: Have you ever wondered about the logistics of how a minor league team executes a one-game rebranding, complete with a new team name, custom uniforms, and so on? I’ve written a ESPN feature about that, using the Syracuse Chiefs’ recent Brannock Device Night as a sort of case study. Some of the piece is about the Brannock promotion and my role within it, but more of the article is about the steps that have to be taken for one of these one-game makeovers. It was a super-fun piece to report and write, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. Check it out here.

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Need a last-minute Father’s Day gift? Allow me to suggest that you could do a lot worse than to get dad one of our limited-edition “Rain Check” prints, printed on acid-free paper with museum-quality archival inks. Each print is individually numbered and signed by designer Todd Radom and myself. You can order them here.

While we’re at it: The official Uni Watch cap would also make a swell gift. Don’t know Dad’s hat size? No worries — we’re sold out of fitted sizes anyway, but we still have about 20 of the adjustable caps, which come with a handsome leather strap and a burnished metal buckle. You can order them here.

And of course there are also Uni Watch shirts and coffee mugs, Naming Wrongs shirts (including a bunch of new designs that we just released yesterday), and let’s not forget the Uni Watch watch (also available in this design).

My thanks, as always, for your consideration.

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And speaking of holidays…: Don’t look now, but Independence Day is right around the corner. Celebrate the holiday in style with the Uni Watch stars/stripes T-shirt, whose NOB lets you make a timely statement about those “patriotic” uniforms everyone else will be wearing for the holiday. You can order it here.

This shirt design was originally part of the Uni Watch T-Shirt Club back in 2015. If you’re seeing it for the first time and are wondering about the “Pandering” NOB, there’s a good explainer available here.

In addition, our old Canada Day shirt, which also dates back to the original T-Shirt Club series, is now available once again as well.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

Raffle reminders: We currently have two raffles in progress. First, illustrator Alex Bennett is currently raffling off two of his new “Football Mishmash” posters (shown above) to a pair of lucky Uni Watch readers. full details here.

In addition, the good people at Vintage Brand are raffling off a pair of their vintage sports-themed canvas prints. Full details on that one here.

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The Ticker
By Kris Gross

Baseball News: After ESPN’s accidentally listed Giants P Derek Holland as “Derek Lastname,” Holland wants to use that nickname for his Players Weekend jersey (thanks Brinke). … This is a good look for Reds SS Alex Blandino (from Todd). … The Sun Sentinel says Marlins fans want to bring back the teal (thanks Phil). … Brewers pitchers recreated the Dumb & Dumber car scene as part of a bullpen cart giveaway promotion (from Brian Kerhin). … Fans using cellphone lights at Fenway caused a game delay on Wednesday night (from Mike Chamernik). … The Cedar Rapids Kernels wore breast cancer awareness jerseys last night. … The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers held their “Salute to Cows” night last night. … Check out the great unis on Keckler’s Motors Team from Pennsylvania, the 1950 Big Spring Fast-Pitch Softball League champions (from Jason Bernard). … A nice tequila sunrise jersey for Westland John Glenn High School in Michigan (from Ryan Keberly). … The Red Sox held their annual Pride Night promotion last night, with a rainbow-striped Sox logo on the back of the mound.

NFL News: The Packers tweeted a video running through their uniform history, starting from 1919 (from Justin Wolf). … Houston rapper Travis Scott’s new shoes pay tribute to the Houston Oilers. Here’s a better look (from Ignacio Salazar). … Interesting spot by Brad Eenhuis on the Browns website. “Was Drew Stanton’s head photoshopped on a lineman’s body? Maybe it’s just the jersey.” … Pro Football Journal points out that Craig Colquitt and Ken Anderson used to have the same issue — peeling facemask paint.

Hockey News: Here’s a peek at Blackhawks G Corey Crawford’s new mask (from Marc-Louis Paprzyca). … Speaking of headwear, check out this Ohio State helmet from the ’80s (from @WesAndHammy). … With the Caps having won the title last night, Chris Creamer has updated his chart showing the jerseys of every Stanley Cup winner.

NBA News: We’ve solved it. Kevin Durant keeps losing his shoes because they’re a size too big (from James Gilbert). … Scott Smoker hated the new Finals logo as much as we did, so he came up with his own design. Here’s the explanation on Scott’s development process.

Soccer News: There are much better ways to reveal a kit than Arsenal’s latest attempt (from Ted Arnold). … Here are all 32 home and away kits for the World Cup (from Josh Hinton). … New uniforms for FC Columbus (from Ed Zelaski).

Grab Bag: Penn State should bring back these 1942 lacrosse unis (from María Canales). … You can now own those dress shirts Phil Mickelson wears on the PGA Tour. … This is a sweet redesign of US currency (from Greg Kissler). … Did you know there are six other flags in the Norwegian flag? (from Matthew Moss). … Marcus Messer spotted two different Pepsi logos at the same fountain. … Here are one observer’s picks for the best and worst jerseys at the ultimate Frisbee college championships (from Alex Rubin).

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What Paul did last night: I will soon be moving to a quieter, sleepier part of Brooklyn. But for now, I still live in a neighborhood where I can walk 10 minutes and see world-class entertainment. Case in point: Last night I walked 10 minutes to Hank’s Saloon, where indie roots band Girls on Grass was playing.

Granted, I’m biased because I’m friends with the singer and the drummer, but I think they’re really, really good. Here’s a snippet of one of their better songs:

Next up was the country singer/songwriter Cliff Westfall. He and his band are a more polished product than Girls on Grass. Here’s one of his better tunes from last night — “Messin’ with My Heart”:

All that, plus socializing with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, for eight bucks. Sometimes I really love New York.

87 comments to Why Should Sports Teams Be Visiting the White House?

  • Jack | June 8, 2018 at 8:34 am |

    We have a president right now who doesn’t much care about sports. Or black people that play said sports.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 8:40 am |

      Nope. No partisan comments, please. Stick to the non-partisan issue of whether it’s appropriate for teams to visit the White House. Thanks.

      • Bob | June 8, 2018 at 6:44 pm |

        Then why didn’t you delete this instead of leaving it up??

        • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 11:03 pm |

          Because I wanted to make the point, publicly, that partisan comments are not appropriate.

    • Enough Already Paul! | June 9, 2018 at 8:09 am |

      He didn’t make a PARTISAN comment. He made one based on FACTS. The current President HAS (FACTUALLY) discriminated against minorities in the past and has been in legal trouble for it. This you can NOT deny.

      You’re too soft Paul. Republicans are also disgusted with the divisive politics this faux Republican spreads. Ever hear of STAUNCH Republican Steve Schmidt?

      You can take your soft, uni-tard neutrality and shove it where the sun don’t shine. It’s weakness like this to appease everyone why this dolt in office gets away with his crap.

  • Greg | June 8, 2018 at 8:43 am |

    I think the idea behind the White House visit was to simply that the sitting president honors and congratulates the championship team on behalf of the country. It seems antiquated now because sports has become such big business, and is covered so much, these athletes are already getting more than enough recognition for being the best in the world at a game.
    Also it was supposed to be apolitical, government honoring particular people of note with a key to the city, or whatever, should not be political, the problem of course now is that government officials, particularity the high ranking ones, are hyper-partisan.
    It seems far more appropriate to have a parade in their town and then have the city and/or state they represent honor them with a key to the city or something along those lines.

    • RS Rogers | June 8, 2018 at 9:05 am |

      Exactly. While I agree, vehemently, with literally every word of Paul’s lede as a political matter, all of that ignores the vital context that the presidency has both political and ceremonial aspects. The president is both the chief executive of the government, a political position, and the head of state, a non-political or nonpartisan ceremonial position. So, for example, when the president makes a speech a proposes legislation or enacts a new regulation, he is acting in his political role as chief executive of the government. A president from a different party, or a different president from the same party, would propose different legislation or promulgate different regulations. When the president receives foreign ambassadors or hosts a group of new Eagle Scouts, he is acting in his ceremonial role as head of state. A president from a different party would still receive the new ambassadors’ credentials or pose for a photo with the Eagle Scouts. Most countries have a prime minister with the political job and a mostly powerless monarch or president with the ceremonial job. Our Constitution gives both jobs to the same person and asks him and us to keep them separate in our heads.

      In the sports context, that’s why it really irked me when fans in Washington loudly booed President Bush when he threw out the first pitch at Nationals Park’s opening night in 2008. Politically, you will find very few Americans who held and hold a lower opinion of the man and his work as president than I do. But the president isnt acting in his political role when he performs ceremonies like that, he’s acting in his ceremonial role. That wasn’t really George W. Bush, the dangerously misguided and incompetent politician, out there on the field; that was a guy acting as a symbol of the federal government whose sovereignty rests with each of us. In that situation, his personal and political identity had no meaning or value. To boo him in that circumstance was to boo the United States of America. If one wishes to boo the nation, fine, but to boo the nation by accident when one intends to boo an individual politician is irksome foolishness.

      All that said, I would agree that even as a ceremonial matter, the champions-visiting-the-White-House thing has gone too far. If the president wants to call (or write, in case we have a literate one) a championship team and offer the nation’s congratulations, great! But White House visits for athletes should be more limited to those who deserve special recognition by the nation. Olympians, for example, or possibly youth-sports teams. Or even particularly individual athletes who perform some particular service or uphold some particular civic virtues. Not every annual pro league champion as a matter of rote.

  • Peter | June 8, 2018 at 8:44 am |

    With the Washington Capitals winning last night (or if any D.C. based team), wouldn’t be appropriate then for the President to attend the parade ceremony / for the team to attend the White House as it is the local team?

    It would be no different than all the mayors / governors attending the NY-based* teams who win and go down the canyon of heroes.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 8:49 am |

      wouldn’t [it] be appropriate then for the President to attend the parade ceremony / for the team to attend the White House?

      Those are two very different scenarios. In the first scenario, the president is the guest at the team’s event; in the second, the team is the guest in the president’s house.

      (Also, regarding the “local team” scenario: Washington has a mayor, you know.)

    • Yoda | June 8, 2018 at 9:34 am |

      And another thing. D.C. cannot have a parade this weekend because PrideFest is already booked for Pennsylvania Avenue and its environs.

      • Max (in DC) | June 8, 2018 at 10:39 am |

        even so, it’s unlikely the parade would have been this weekend

        as a native and resident of the DC area, I still remember the Washington professional football team’s parades in 1983 (my senior year of high school — the school excused any absence to attend the parade), 1988, and 1992 all being on weekdays

  • Josh Hinton | June 8, 2018 at 8:47 am |

    Players have been skipping the White House visit for some time. If I’m not mistaken, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick missed visits during President Obama’s time, and several have skipped durzing President Trump’s time in office. I have no idea what prompted the tradition, but it’s outdated (with our current political landscape of “I’m right, you’re wrong”) and needs to go. Too much added drama…

    • Rob S | June 8, 2018 at 9:33 am |

      Brady skipped meeting Trump as well as Obama. And Tim Thomas of the Bruins stayed away explicitly to protest the state of the entire government.

    • Ben D. | June 8, 2018 at 10:48 pm |

      Also, a few of the ’73 Dolphins skipped meeting Obama 40 years later. (That was the perfect-season team, and they didn’t make it initially because Watergate was in full swing.)

  • Mark in Shiga | June 8, 2018 at 8:47 am |

    I don’t really have a problem with the presidential visits. The president is the ultimate representative of the American people and American culture, and sports are a pretty big part of American culture.

    And they’re a huge thrill for the players, who, despite being famous millionaires, would still probably never have that opportunity.

  • John | June 8, 2018 at 8:51 am |

    When Reagan threw the pass to Ricky Sanders, imagine how Sanders felt. There’s still some thrill to the visit.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 8:56 am |

      If you have to go back more than 30 years to find a worthwhile example from this category of experience, I think you’ve pretty well made my point for me.

  • Rich | June 8, 2018 at 9:01 am |

    I disagree on the tequila sunrise jerseys. Both of those teams have the number split between the white and the stripes. Looks like crap. Do it right or don’t do it.

    • Rob S | June 8, 2018 at 9:06 am |

      Well, if the Houston Astros themselves can’t even get it right on their own vendors’ uniforms, why should high school teams bother?

    • Mark in Shiga | June 8, 2018 at 10:42 am |

      If you try to fit the number inside the stripey part, it looks like total garbage with the players pulling their jersey sout of their pants just so that the number doesn’t get cut off and half stuffed down their pants. The fronts look great, and if you moved the stripes upward on the fronts, it would still work.

      Maybe the real way to do it is to have the number inside the white area above the stripes, and then put the NOB in white letter inside the stripes.

      • Rob S | June 8, 2018 at 12:16 pm |

        Or do what the Astros originally did, and have a white circle on the back inside which the numbers can go.

        • Mark in Shiga | June 9, 2018 at 3:36 pm |

          I had almost forgotten about those!

  • Eddie | June 8, 2018 at 9:01 am |

    When Pepsi changed their logo 10 years ago the pepsi smiley (which I still don’t like and think they should go back to the normal pepsi globe), the smile globe appeared different on Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max, (now pepsi 0 sugar) only a few years later they would get rid of the different logos and stick to one.

  • Rob S | June 8, 2018 at 9:02 am |

    A nice tequila sunrise jersey for Westland John Glenn High School in Michigan (from Ryan Keberly).

    And how about their opponent, Plymouth, in their greyscale sunrise jerseys?

    Though it still bugs me that a) the Plymouth Wildcats are still off the Nashville Predators’ logo, and b) that they’re the Wildcats – one of the most generic sports names ever – at all. They have the Preds logo because their first graduating class had wanted to have the school be the Predators, but that name got nixed by the parents.

  • Mangler | June 8, 2018 at 9:04 am |

    There are much better ways to reveal a World Cup team than England’s recent attempt:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGZ_SQswAdk

    • Bays | June 8, 2018 at 10:34 am |

      Ah man, I kinda liked it! I thought it was a fun way to get people involved and show off all corners of England. Saudi Arabia did a very similar video too

    • RS Rogers | June 8, 2018 at 4:16 pm |

      That was pretty terrific. What are the much better ways you have in mind? If the England video is the floor of quality, I’d be excited to see some examples of much better announcements!

    • Mangler | June 9, 2018 at 6:43 am |

      There’s nothing wrong with using young people for the video, but some of those kids were loud and obnoxious (did those girls really need to kick the puddle?!), and some of their comments required captions–for some American viewers, anyway.

      I just watched the Saudi Arabia video; it’s more “grown-up”, with more variety and cleverness for each player. The only other video I’ve found so far is for Iceland, which is basic; it shows each player with their position, international appearances and goals, along with highlights.

      It’s too bad the U.S. failed to qualify; it would have been interesting to see what kind of video they would have produced.

  • kdf | June 8, 2018 at 9:19 am |

    I agree about pro sports teams, but I’m less convinced when it comes to college kids. I still think a visit to the White House and a tour from the president would be a nice perk for winning a national championship. The vast majority of those kids aren’t going to get opportunities like that.

  • Wade Heidt | June 8, 2018 at 9:25 am |

    We’ve had a CFL team visit Parliament Hill and the Prime Minister for 2 years straight in Canada recently. Not after Grey Cups wins though. The Saskatchewan Roughriders just show up and decide to practice on their lawn.

    http://3downnation.com/2017/10/01/riders-practice-parliament-hill-second-straight-year/

    https://nationalpostcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/the-saskatchewan-roughriders-practiced-on-parliament-hill-in.jpeg?w=620&quality=60&strip=all

    https://i1.wp.com/3downnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/BaggTrudeau.jpg

  • I look good | June 8, 2018 at 9:36 am |

    Paul:

    Think of this. In 1974, the Capitals and Astros committed some fashion faux-pas. The Caps with the white pant shells, the Stros with the Rainbow Guts.

    They now are their respective champions. With better uniforms!

  • Yancy Yeater | June 8, 2018 at 9:40 am |

    Well said. I have wondered this myself why it is essential for this visit. It seems to me the “special” feeling has diminished on these visits. And I have been confused why the outrage over Trump canceling an event the team didn’t want to attend in the first place. If you were going to have a party and no one RSVPed, would you still have the party?

    This whole thing appears to have been exacerbated by the National Anthem protests. It seems to be a topic that there isn’t any clear vision to solve. I have wondered why this has still been a common practice at sporting games. It struck me weird about the boasting displays of honoring America during the Stanley Cup Final. Most of these players are not American. They are Canadian and Eastern European, mostly. And we demand that they honor our country. When they play a Canadian team they have to play both anthems. But a lot of those players are not from Canada either. Should they play the anthems of all the countries that are represented if they want to be fair?

    The NBA is becoming more international. MLB has a diverse player population, as well. If you count soccer as a major sport, those players come from all over the world too. It seems the NFL is the only sport that is predominately American players. Even they are trying to push football into other countries.

    Maybe it’s time to separate this from the game. Save it for special days like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. A separation of church and state, for a lack of a better term.

    I’m sure a lot of people would be upset over that, too. It’s all very complicated.

    • Greg | June 8, 2018 at 10:42 am |

      RE: The national anthem and the players not being American born and/or American citizens.
      I think the point is not that they are honoring their country of origin or citizenship, but instead honoring the country in which they play, and thus are employed and able to make a king’s ransom playing a game. Honoring the opportunity America provided them, etc.
      Whether it should be played at all before a game is another point, but I think we are down the road to the point where it is a tradition that if we ended it, many people would be upset.
      To the point that there is a civic component to sports team, a unifying force for a city/region, showing civic pride makes sense, hence the anthem. Though realistically, the civic pride the team represents is more for the city/region not our nation (unless you were watching a national team play in international competition). So sort of like how college teams would sing their alma mater or fight song before a game, perhaps with pro sports it would be more logical to sing a song tied to the city/region as a showing of civic pride.

      • Kyle | June 8, 2018 at 11:53 am |

        “it would be more logical to sing a song tied to the city/region as a showing of civic pride.”

        That would be fun. Similar to European football teams or MLB 7th inning song traditions.

  • Julio | June 8, 2018 at 9:43 am |

    And if it was the any other president you would have devoted a whole article about it and not say a word. Your bias is become pathetically predictable.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 9:50 am |

      Actually, the only apparent bias is in your comment, not in today’s text.

      I wrote today’s article today (rather than, say, three years ago), because the issue has come to a head in the news, which makes this the right time to talk about it.

      I mentioned specific examples of acceptable team visits for both Obama and Bush.

      You can try to turn this into either a partisan issue or a Lukas issue, but it’s neither. The rest of us will continue to discuss it like adults while you stew in the corner.

  • Marc | June 8, 2018 at 9:52 am |

    Paul-
    That ESPN article about the Syracuse rebranding has to be one of the best articles that I have read in years. Amazing how complicated something so “simple” as changing a name can be.

    Also, I wish it was how it used to be with the President calling the team in the locker room to offer congratulations. The photo op nonsense is long since played out.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 9:56 am |

      Thanks, Marc. I was worried that the Syracuse article might be too long (and it could have been even longer, believe me!), but I’m glad you felt it was worth the lengthy read.

  • Dumb Guy | June 8, 2018 at 9:52 am |

    Like many “special” things that become UNspecial because of repeatedness and the widening circle of things it happens to/for/with, the presidential visit is becoming old hat to me.

    Granted, I have not won a Super Bowl, World Series, or Spelling Bee so my view of it may be quite different than those who have.

  • cjhart12 | June 8, 2018 at 9:53 am |

    Re: the Pepsi logos: not sure if I’m missing something here, but those logos are correct. The Diet Pepsi logo has a slightly slimmer white stripe than the regular Pepsi one does. The Pepsi Max has a larger white stripe than the other two.

    • Eddie | June 8, 2018 at 12:46 pm |

      I pointed out already that it was that way when they initially changed their logo, but by 2011 they made all the logos match. So the fountain labels are from 2009.

  • Max (in DC) | June 8, 2018 at 9:59 am |

    In February 2013, Uni Watch put a picture of my Washington DC sports team logos in the lede (https://uni-watch.com/2013/02/07/greetings-from-washington/)

    Last night, my beloved Capitals won the first Stanley Cup championship in their history, and I’ve never been more proud to wear my fandom on my sleeve (so to speak)!

  • Graf Zeppelin | June 8, 2018 at 10:18 am |

    My $0.02 about the White House thing. I will try very hard to be non-partisan here.

    Methinks the main reason why these events might have been fun and harmless in the past but have become inappropriate and polarizing now, is the advent of the “permanent campaign.” Meaning, once upon a time the President was just the President, irrespective of which party had nominated him for election. During the election itself he was the candidate of this party or that but once elected, once in office, once in a position of actually doing the job, he was just the President and it was an honor to meet him and all that.

    Now, and in recent decades, political campaigns are perpetual; every minute of every day, every statement, every appearance, every word and deed, is both intended to be and perceived as being of partisan political dimension; an attempt to gain advantage in the next campaign even if it is years away.

    I won’t say when I think this began, and I won’t say which party first decided (and implemented a specific, affirmative strategy) to make the other out as a gang of traitors, heretics, villains and monsters (as opposed mere opponents or adversaries) at every possible opportunity, every minute of every day of every year, irrespective of observable reality.

    Given that we’ve reached the point where athletes are refusing to attend these functions because of antipathy toward the current officeholder, born of partisanship, irrespective of the merits of such animus, I agree that it’s time to suspend this practice until political partisans can get back to regarding each other as human beings who disagree about things, instead of pure evil incarnate — regardless of “who started it” and why, and until the President goes back to being just the President and not an avatar or target of irrational, arbitrary partisan hatred.

    • Thomas J | June 8, 2018 at 11:01 am |

      I’m on board with most of your statement though I would hold that in this particular climate with this particular president the ire is far from arbitrary.

  • DenverGregg | June 8, 2018 at 10:25 am |

    One of your best posts, Paul. Another problem with this custom is the flip side of your fourth point: that it contributes to the rather sick obsession that has built up about one particular government employee. The chronic outrage spewed by one faction or another about every little thing associated with one person (and sometimes even family members of that one person) is not healthy. Unless a person is working in close proximity to that particular official, who holds that office shouldn’t be a very big part of anyone’s daily life: for good or ill.

    Sports should be a diversion from the more troublesome aspects of life, but in recent years it becomes more and more corrupted by the most dysfunctional and sleazy aspects of this decadent culture: commerce and politics.

  • Rick | June 8, 2018 at 10:33 am |

    Who or what team was the first to visit the White House after a championship? If it was discussed prior, my apologies.

    • DenverGregg | June 8, 2018 at 10:55 am |

      Here’s a nice little backgrounder from espn

      • Special K | June 8, 2018 at 1:13 pm |

        Thanks, DenverGregg! Good info.

  • RICKAZ | June 8, 2018 at 10:34 am |

    Our politics and country have become too tribal for this White House visit to continue. People root for their party and candidates/politicians like they do their sports teams. This is why I’m an independent, so I can honestly criticize or compliment both parties.

    • Eddie | June 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm |

      Same here, I know family that have unfriended each other political beliefs.
      It’s pathetic if you ask me to hate someone just because they don’t share the same political views.

      • MJ | June 8, 2018 at 5:26 pm |

        My wife and I disagree on a lot politically. We are able to politely disagree and respect each other, irrespective of beliefs. Part of the hyperpartisanship tearing this country apart is that people no longer know how to politely disagree. The world is full of keyboard warriors used to living in their echo chambers. It’s not enough to disagree, you have to call the other person derogatory names or emasculate them.
        I still think the visit to the White House is a nice ceremony for a team to meet our head of state. But with the never ending campaign and the overemphasis on politics, it’s been twisted into something it shouldn’t be.

  • Jaybee | June 8, 2018 at 10:38 am |

    I would run through the snow in my underwear if I were invited to the White House to meet the President. I wouldn’t care what the potus political party is. Certainly I have political views but this is a ceremonial event. Those invited are going for a nice ceremony that recognizes their accomplishment. It’s an incredible honor. I’m disappointed some athletes choose to make this about politics or policy. I don’t think the invitation ritual need to end but why not make it a closed event? Have an informal buffet breakfast or luncheon in the east room. No press. No photo opportunities. It won’t matter who goes. No ceremonial jersey, no silly jokes just an opportunity to visit the WH and informally meet the potus.

  • Kyle | June 8, 2018 at 10:40 am |

    The White House visits used to be just a fun little thing, but nothing can be fun or little anymore.

  • James Gilbert | June 8, 2018 at 10:58 am |

    1) Your lede only mentions pro sports, but my memory really only goes back to the early ’80s when NC State won the National Championship in men’s basketball but were denied a trip to the White House, due to NCAA rules, when Reagan invited them. http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/nc-state/article76607962.html

    Now a lot, most?, NCAA, CFP/BCS, champions can and do go.

    I only recall Presidents making phone calls to championship locker rooms before that. I believe Nixon even made Texas the national champs.

    2) The President is only a small part of the White House visit. But it’s supposed to be an honor AND photo op for the winning team. If there is no honor in going then one should not go. If there is no honor in the person/institution inviting champions, one should not go.

  • Thomas J | June 8, 2018 at 10:59 am |

    I’m going to make an argument in favor of this visit but must acknowledge the highly charged situation we find ourselves in now.

    For any nation to really be a nation, there has to be connective bonds of commonality. Those bonds can take any number of forms: shared history, language, law, vibranium, etc.

    Here in the United States, sports has often proved to be one of those bonds of connective tissue. One of the first things new immigrants learned on arrival was baseball. There’s the famous letter in the Daily Forward encouraging the immigrant father to let his son play baseball with his American friends.

    In more recent times, the Super Bowl has become a secular holiday to rival the 4th of July. It’s one of the few observances recognized by Americans across the country and across backgrounds and religions (or lack thereof).

    So in ordinary times, a field trip to the White House is a kind of national bonding experience. The president recognizing the accomplishment of the victor of a national game on behalf of the whole. An hour or so to (at least politely) affirm our mutual bonds of affection.

    Of course these are not ordinary times. Everything is political and everything political is partisan. There’s a whole separate discussion to be had as to why and who shares more or less or the blame for it but here we are.

  • Greg | June 8, 2018 at 11:06 am |

    Paul, your espn article on brannock device night was great. One of your most interesting for sure, lots of good insight into the process for all these wacky theme nights.

  • Blake | June 8, 2018 at 11:08 am |

    Not the forum for this comment but with the conversation going on I thought I’d throw this out there. Last night was the first time I watched a team win a Stanley cup. The series was super exciting. Another first for me. But the thing I thought was most amazing, and maybe this is totally normal in hockey. Was at the end the caps celebrated like they should and the knights just hung out on the ice, then they all shook hands. No one ran off the ice. No one showed hard feelings. They congratulated the winners like true sportsme. Then the knights showed appreciation to their fans and went into the locker room, with class. I know other sports do similar things and teams respect their fellow players. But to see it on a big national stage like that was cool to me. Quality sportsmanship. So far I have seen no coverage of this or mention. So maybe I’m just a weird-o but I think with teams being disinvited to the White House and anthem protest being all over every channel this should get some attention. It was sportsmanship at its finest to me. ok now I’m done.

    • Peter | June 8, 2018 at 11:46 am |

      It’s been around for forever.
      It’s an unspoken protocol that is instilled at a very young age.
      No matter how hard you play, you give twice the respect.

      Team Russia skated off the ice several years ago (Malkin and Ovechkin stayed on) after their loss to team Canada and it was frowned upon.

      https://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/05/team-russia-walks-off-ice-before-canadian-anthem-at-hockey-worlds

      This act of respect is one of the reasons hockey, and the Stanley Cup is the best trophy in sports.

  • Scott Criscuolo | June 8, 2018 at 11:17 am |

    Sadly it’s all about (D) and (R). I’m sure not every athlete visiting the White House voted for the guy they’re visiting, whether it’s Reagan, Carter, Clinton, Bush (Dad or Son), etc. It was a day, you were respectful and you moved on. Simple as that. Sadly we’ve entered the ME ME ME ME generation where you can’t just do something for the good of the group, you have to make it about yourself. It’s unfortunate.

    I remember presidents calling about big sports moments, like Reagan calling Pete Rose when he broke the hit record, or Clinton on the field when Cal Ripken broke the Iron Man Streak, or Bush throwing out the first pitch in the 2001 World Series.

    The 2000 Election and the hanging chads changed everything. Regardless of who won or lost, to me it seems like that was the moment the public line was drawn in the sand.

    • Kyle | June 8, 2018 at 11:48 am |

      2000 really was a turning point. I can’t imagine election landslides like 1964, 1972 or 1984 happening again.

      Our current state reminds me of African and American imperialism: pit rival tribes against each other so the people are too busy fighting one another than to take on the power source that is really hurting them.

      The media and politicians use hot button “wedge” issues to drive the American people into two tribes, Republicans and Democrats, where they are further manipulated into collective think and collective hate.

      • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 11:51 am |

        As a longtime member of “the media,” I would appreciate it if you did not refer to “the media” as “the media.”

        We are not a monolithic block of faceless automatons. We are human beings and professional journalists doing our jobs, which involve all sorts of nuanced decisionmaking.

      • DenverGregg | June 8, 2018 at 11:56 am |

        Both of the major parties and all of the biggest PACs and bundling groups deserve to be annihilated (no, I’m not calling for violence against the people associated with them, just the utter destruction of the institutions – I’d even accept the riddance of the one large political group that I’ve contributed to in the past few years in exchange for getting rid of the others).

    • mememe? | June 8, 2018 at 1:56 pm |

      “Sadly we’ve entered the ME ME ME ME generation where you can’t just do something for the good of the group, you have to make it about yourself.”

      The irony of using this to criticize athletes who don’t want to participate in a photo op with the current occupant of the White House is staggering.

  • Phil P | June 8, 2018 at 11:41 am |

    Well I guess another visit is off in another, “you’re not breaking up with me, I’m breaking up with you” move http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23732696/president-trump-says-invite-nba-champion-white-house

  • Peter | June 8, 2018 at 11:41 am |

    That is the tradition in hockey.
    It’s been that way for many, many years on almost ALL levels.

    Several years ago, when members team Russia left before the handshake when losing to team Canada, it was deeply frowned upon, even by their teammates Ovechkin and Malkin (who DID stay on the ice and congratulate their opponents).

    The level of respect in hockey instilled at a very young age that you as hard as you compete, you give twice as much respect.

    It’s the love of the game.

    https://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/05/team-russia-walks-off-ice-before-canadian-anthem-at-hockey-worlds

  • Sox | June 8, 2018 at 11:52 am |

    Obama brought the White Sox over just a few months after taking office in 2009, just because he wanted to and is a huge fan. He brought the Cubs over to show some Chicago love before leaving office in 2017. That’s how it should be.

  • Chris Cruz | June 8, 2018 at 11:53 am |

    Re White House visits: Does anyone know who pays the costs for the teams to fly out to the White House, lodging/food, extra security on the day of the event, etc.? If it’s the White House (i.e., taxpayer dollars) is that something we should be supporting? If it’s the teams themselves, and the teams are college teams (i.e., taxpayer funded and/or recipients of tax-exempt status) again is that something we should be supporting?

    • Ryan M | June 8, 2018 at 7:43 pm |

      I feel like at least in baseball it’s been done during the following season, when the reigning champion was on the road in Baltimore or Washington, right?
      And hopefully it’s not taxpayer-funded, what with all the $$$ owners rake in these days, even if it is the White House that’s extending the invitation.

  • Gregory Koch | June 8, 2018 at 12:06 pm |

    This thing with Derek Holland reminds me of the 30 Rock character Paul Lastname, pronounced Last-nuh-may.

  • roccot | June 8, 2018 at 12:15 pm |

    You went and visited rocks because you thought it was cool and a worthwhile investment in your time. I’m sure there have been several hundred athletes pass through the white house doors that thought it was pretty awesome, even if they had their photo taken to what you see as political gain. Both values should be respected and not deemed unnecessary.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm |

      Honestly, Ross, your comment employs so many logical fallacies in the space of a few dozen words, I don’t even know where to begin. You might want to go back and re-read today’s entry.

  • Tim | June 8, 2018 at 12:29 pm |

    Paul-

    I tend to agree with you on this. I watch sports to escape. It’s become one giant political argument 24×7, with folks on all sides whining about the others’ lack of understanding on the other side.

    If a game is on TV at 5pm and I know first pitch is at 5:10, I’m now taking to not even turning on the game until 5:11 (working on adjusting my DVR to do that as well).

    Quoting the song by the great band Yes:

    It’s a constant fight
    A constant fight
    You’re pushing the needle to the red
    Black and white
    Who knows who’s right
    No substitute you’re born you’re dead

    Tim

    • Tim | June 8, 2018 at 12:31 pm |

      And since I hit the enter button too soon, I don’t think there’s a need for championship teams to go to the White House and be politicized.

      I’m really tired of it all.

  • Rich Paloma | June 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm |

    I had wondered the same thing years ago – it got so routine with the photo, the jersey, the typical habitual comment how MVP PLayer XXX could do XXX in his administration….
    I also recall a time or two when POTUS would call the World Series and Super Bowl winning coach during the trophy presentation but that was abandoned probably due to the noise and not being able to hear the call.

  • Mainspark | June 8, 2018 at 1:09 pm |

    The ESPN article is great. I felt like I was with you every step of the rebranding process I forget sometimes how much I enjoy your writing in longer form. Well done.

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm |

      Thanks. It was nice to stretch out a bit with this one, for sure.

  • Name Redacted | June 8, 2018 at 1:39 pm |

    The best handshake line moment might be the infamous “I can’t believe I shook that guy’s friggin hand,” following a particularly vicious series between Detroit and Colorado*.

    *oversimplication for space

  • Brian Kerhin | June 8, 2018 at 2:17 pm |

    While I can take or leave the entire White House visit – I think it is indeed an honor, and is part of the ceremonial role, but it has become too politicized – as a Packers fan, it was indeed enjoyable to see the team visit an avowed Bears fan (Obama) and present him with an ownership share!

  • Skott | June 8, 2018 at 3:16 pm |

    I also see no reason why athletes should be expected to provide political marketing for a politician, including a president, “with whose politics they may disagree.”

    I LOVE the way the last part is worded!

    • Paul Lukas | June 8, 2018 at 3:42 pm |

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at. It’s just proper English.

      • Noel | June 8, 2018 at 4:50 pm |

        I love a good dangling participle :-)

        Of which, I see none!

  • Daniel Tarrant | June 8, 2018 at 3:48 pm |

    While I hate to blow my own horn, a while back Paul was nice enough to let me write a article on this site about the history of custom made jerseys that have been given to Presidents.

    Here’s the link if you missed it the first time:

    https://uni-watch.com/2017/07/07/a-brief-history-of-jerseys-presented-to-presidents/

  • Derek | June 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm |

    Kudos Paul, on your perspective of White House visits! I completely agree! The current guy in office thrives on his “celebrity-dom”.
    Now, if we can also stop champagne celebrations in MLB for: securing a Wild-card birth, winning the Wild-Card play-in game, and even winning the divisional series. Save the champagne for winning your Division, winning the pennant, and winning the World Series. There’s just way too much “look at me!” in sports.

    • Wade Heidt | June 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm |

      Champagne should just come out when a team wins the World Series.

  • Daniel Tarrant | June 8, 2018 at 5:50 pm |

    As far as whether or not teams should visit the White House, the current controversy seems to be a symptom of our divided nation more than anything else.

    It used to be that people had a certain amount of respect for the President, I guess when things were going well for the country he was always seen as the nation’s leader regardless of whether you voted for him or agreed with his policies.

    But now that things are so divided, appearing with Trump makes it appear that you support an agenda that roughly half the country disapproves of.

    So maybe it’s time to put this tradition to rest, right now it seems to be doing no good for anybody.

  • Lex Levy | June 8, 2018 at 7:12 pm |

    First- a female, left handed guitarist who plays lead? Wow! That gal rips!

    Second- I haven’t read the whole thread and I’m sure I’ll get savaged for this, but the lede got me thinking. It seems that not visiting the Prez has become more prominent the last couple years because of Trump’s response to NFL players protesting during the anthem. I feel they have the right, but that aside, why does the anthem have to play such a prominent role at sporting events. The Super Bowl, ultimately, is just a football game. The 4 major pro sports are filled with people from other countries. Why should they honor our anthem at every game they play? It feels full of bogus importance to me over what is just an athletic competition. Not only that, but protests during it seemed to have led to more divisivness than constructive dialogue. The anthem is fitting for political ceremonies, police ceremonies, graduations, the Olympics, and other events. Why attach it to game 3 of the second round of the playoffs? For Pete’s sake, let’s just play ball.

  • Ted Mark | June 9, 2018 at 5:08 pm |

    Keep politics out of sports, and sports out of politics.
    Keep the military out of sports, and sports out of the military.
    Keep patriotism out of sports, and sports out of patriotism.
    Keep religion out of sports, and sports out of religion.
    Fat chance, but I had to say it.