University Of South Carolina Women’s Basketball Team Says No To Last-Minute Trump White House Invite

In the past, American sports teams who had won contests ranging from little league championships to gold medals in the Olympics couldn’t wait for the customary invitation to the White House. And South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley is no different. Her team won the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship in April. If invited, she said at the time, her team would accept because, “It’s what national champions do.”

But as of late September, Coach Staley told the Associated Press (AP) that they had not yet received an invitation from Donald Trump’s current administration. The three-time Olympic gold medalist, Hall of Famer, and former WNBA All-Star has previously visited the White House herself. Staley is well-aware of the tradition and still sees it as an honor. But she was admittedly concerned about the message that the non-action was sending.

We haven’t gotten an invitation yet and that in itself speaks volumes,” Staley told the AP in a phone interview. “We won before those other teams won their championships. I don’t know what else has to happen.”

But Staley refused to lose any sleep over it. Women’s college championship basketball teams have been invited to the White House every year since 1983. But with a new season on the horizon, she said that there were more important matters at hand. Their 67 — 55 victory over Mississippi State was the first national championship in the school’s history and they are eager for a repeat performance.

2004 Olympic teams visit the White House
President George W. Bush addresses 2004 Olympic and Special Olympics teams. [Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

“I got bigger fish to fry than to worry about an invitation,” Staley told the AP.

Staley makes a valid point about the timing of the invitation that finally arrived around two weeks ago. Several teams have already received invites and many have already made the trip. Topping the list are the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Clemson football team, members of the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs, the North Carolina men’s basketball team, and the Golden State Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors were uninvited after Steph Curry expressed during the team’s media day that he had great hesitation about making the trip. Donald Trump had just called national anthem protesters like Colin Kaepernick a “son of a b***h” at an Alabama political rally. Several of the players, as well as Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, found Trump’s commentary offensive and they were vocal about it. Before the team could meet to make a decision about taking the trip, Trump took to Twitter to rescind the offer.

But for Staley, declining the invitation is more of a problem with scheduling at this point than with anything else. Her priority is guaranteeing the success of her team now that the season is well underway.

“We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow’s event, but we will not be able to attend,” Coach Staley said in a statement on Thursday as reported by the State. “As I’ve been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”

[Featured Image by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images]