Recently, President Donald Trump hosted several National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship teams at the White House. From observations of this event, it appeared to be a mild-mannered day for Trump and collegiate athletes.
Trump happily interacted with many athletes, hitting a volleyball with an Ohio State University’s men’s volleyball player and even acknowledging a member of the West Virginia athletics who was wearing a “Trump ‘16” tie. Some teams even brought Trump gifts, such as a personalized glove from the Oklahoma softball team and a jersey from Pennsylvania State University’s women’s rugby team.
However, this facade of unambiguous support for the current administrative system did not prove true for all NCAA Championship teams. Two teams rejected their invitations: the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill men’s basketball team. Interestingly enough, both of these teams dominate their home courts in traditionally conservative voting states.
“We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow’s event, but we will not be able to attend,” head coach of the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team, Dawn Staley, said to the Washington Examiner. “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.”
On the other hand, due to a scheduling conflict, Roy Williams, the head coach of the UNC men’s basketball team and public critic of Trump and his social media behavior, declined the offer to visit the White House and meet with Trump, according to the New York Times.
This is not the first time that athletes and athletic staff have rejected invitations from the current administration. Professional athletes, such as Steph Curry and Colin Kaepernick, have appeared in the news for their public criticism of Trump. Now, the collegiate sector is choosing to use its platforms in similar ways.
Championship teams have traditionally viewed an invitation to the White House as an honor and a privilege, but this view has clearly begun to shift.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 4 print edition. Email Tori Bianco at [email protected]