Barron Trump just got a gift from his father’s friend Vladimir Putin: a soccer ball used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final in Russia. But he may not get to keep it, The San Jose Mercury News is reporting.
Barron has largely managed to stay out of the public eye during his father’s presidency, but he was thrust back into it, briefly and obliquely, this week when his father was gifted the soccer ball at his Helsinki summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. When Putin gave the ball to Trump, Trump promised to give the ball to Barron; he then gave it to Melania, who gave it to a Secret Service agent.
“Melania, there you go.”
Just about any 12-year-old boy would be thrilled to have such a gift – if they were a soccer fan, that is. And as it turns out, Barron is indeed a soccer fan. As CBS Sports reported in 2017, Barron supports English Premiere League team Arsenal and plays as a midfielder for D.C. United’s youth developmental league, wearing number 81. He even appears on the league’s website. Looks like the son of the president of the United States got himself a yellow card for “unsporting behavior” during a May game.
Unfortunately, Barron may not be able to keep the ball after all, for a couple of reasons.
By some measures, the ball is a so-called “Gift of State.” As the National Archives explains, the tradition of rulers, kings, monarchs, and politicians exchanging gifts with one another goes back millennia, and U.S. presidents have received their share of such gifts. As such, if the ball is deemed a “Gift of State,” it almost certainly belongs in a museum.
There’s also the fact that the ball carries with it some rather unfortunate symbolism, mainly due to the fact that it came about during a meeting and subsequent press conference that has not been received very well, to put it mildly, as Mercury News writer Martha Ross explains.
“The ball in question was presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin to President Donald Trump during a bizarre moment in what has been widely condemned as an embarrassing and diplomatically disastrous moment for Trump’s White House and for the United States.”
And finally, there’s the outside possibility that the ball may have been outfitted with a listening device. That’s what Senator Lindsey Graham suggested, perhaps facetiously, perhaps not.
“If it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”
Of course, you can rest assured that the Secret Service will examine every square inch of that ball inside and out, long before it does or does not go to Barron’s room in the White House.