According to a statement from the team’s head coach, the University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team will not be celebrating their recent championship at the White House, CNN reports. Tony Bennett, the coach, said that they had indeed received inquiries about an invitation and that they would be forced to decline. Bennett did not, however, attribute the decision to any feelings regarding President Donald Trump.
“With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together,” Bennett said in his statement. “We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”
In contrast, Baylor, the women’s national champions, have indicated that they would be traveling to the White House to attend a ceremony next week which will include the president. That team, having won previous championships, has also visited the White House under President Barack Obama in 2012 and President George W. Bush in 2005.
Baylor’s visit comes in the wake of recent criticism of the president for failing to host any women’s teams for solo events at the White House since taking office more than two years ago.
Since Trump took office, championship sports teams have faced intense scrutiny when it comes to White House visits, which had previously been routine and uncontroversial affairs. When the White House hosted an event in 2017 to recognize multiple NCAA championships teams from several sports, the South Carolina women’s basketball team declined the invitation.
The traditional visit from Super Bowl winners has likewise generated controversy. Last year, Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles following their Super Bowl win, citing what was then an intense NFL controversy in which players knelt during the national anthem, a movement that Trump opposed fervently.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” read a statement from the White House at the time. “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
The University of Virginia men's basketball team will not be celebrating its national championship with President Donald Trump at the White House, per a statement from the head coach https://t.co/z0ePoRHdNO pic.twitter.com/7XQyGPUqvt— CNN (@CNN) April 27, 2019
As for the NBA, the 2017 champion Golden State Warriors collectively declined an invitation to visit the White House after their win.
When it comes to past presidents, although individual players would sometimes decline to participate due to opposition to certain policies or positions, entire teams opting out was uncommon.