Former Washington Nationals player Bryce Harper is set to face the team as a Philadelphia Phillie for the first time on Tuesday night, and he is already drawing boos from Washington residents. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Harper’s image was booed by the WWE Monday Night Raw crowd at Capital One Arena on Monday. Not only that, ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser — who is a longtime D.C. resident — and NBC Sports Washington personalities Julie Donaldson and Travis Thomas said they’d be booing Harper when he returns to Nationals Park.
Former Phillies and Nationals outfielder Jason Werth said that some fans will still be upset about Harper’s decision to leave town.
“I don’t expect it to be the same as when I went back to Philly. I think they’ll be a little bit of everything.”
Even D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser took to Twitter to post a photo of Harper in the costume of famous traitor Benedict Arnold, although he deleted it a half hour later. Of course, nothing is lost on social media, so the photo is already making the rounds.
Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell, who often criticizes Harper, highlighted his showman-like tactics in a recent article, such as the bow and salute he gave Phillies fans during the first three games of the season.
“I’ve never seen an athlete spend more time on drawing attention to himself. Maybe it’s just more obvious when he’s on a different team. His green shoes practically glowed in his first Phillies game. Completely stood out from any of his teammates.”
Bryce Harper probably won't get a warm welcome in Washington D.C.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 2, 2019
D.C.'s mayor tweeted a picture depicting Harper as the Revolutionary War-era traitor Benedict Arnold: https://t.co/PXhTztmCy9 pic.twitter.com/4w4gGuRAs5
Per USA Today, Harper lived in Washington, D.C., for the last 474 regular season games in the city, which means he knows the city’s players, security guards, parking lot employers, and vendors, among other people. When he enters Nationals Park on Tuesday evening, it will be the first time he sets foot on the field wearing a different uniform and walking in the opposite direction.
Harper spoke to USA Today Sports about his expectations returning to Washington.
“We’ll see what happens, but I really think it’s going to be mixed. I think I’ll be cheered; I really do. But I think I’ll get booed, too. It’s part of sports, right?”
But he also said he feels that people traded from teams typically get a warmer welcome than people who leave as free agents, adding that he doesn’t know what to expect. Regardless, Harper claims to be looking forward to the occasion.
The Philadelphia Phillies face the Washington Nationals at 7:05 p.m. Eastern Time.