Several big questions popped up in the aftermath of the Golden State Warriors’ championship-clinching win last Monday, including whether they’ll become a dynasty and how close every other team is to dethroning them as the NBA’s best team. Yet that group included one question not usually tied to titles — will the Warriors become the first team in recent history not to attend the White House as guests of the president?
This issue gained attention in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s electoral college win last November and mostly disappeared as the season continued, but it’s one that matters to a great deal of basketball fans. Golden State has so far declined to commit to a position officially, but rumors, various anti-Trump comments from head coach Steve Kerr and others, and the opinions of many NBA personalities suggest it’s unlikely we’ll see President Trump holding up a No. 45 Warriors jersey any time soon. (Big ups to Purvis Short.) For that matter, it’s not clear the Trump administration has or will extend an invitation.
However, not meeting with Trump does not preclude the Warriors from meeting with members of the federal government in an official capacity. To that end, two Congressional representatives of the Bay Area have offered to set up a visit. From Tyler Tynes of SB Nation:
“In celebration of your victory, we would be delighted to welcome you publicly as a team or personally as families to the United States Capitol,” [Nancy] Pelosi and [Barbara] Lee wrote to Steve Kerr and the team. “Please consider this as a blanket invitation whenever your individual schedules allow.”
The Warriors did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter. Sarah Sanders, the White House’s Deputy Press Secretary, said “nothing to announce at this time” about the president’s plans with the Warriors. Sanders did not clarify if President Trump has sent a request to the team or if a request was made at all. […]
“I mean, I’d like them to bring their families when they want to come. You know what I mean? In other words, this isn’t about a hoopty doo. This is about when you’re here, bring your families. We’d love to welcome them, just as we welcome all of America’s families,” Pelosi said about extending invitations to the team. […]
“The invitation is a way to not only celebrate them but to honor their commitment to those values,” one Democratic staffer said. “This is a nod to the Warriors leadership on and off the court: many of the players and Coach Kerr’s vocal opposition to the bigotry and anti-American values of Trump.”
According to a congressional aide with knowledge of the lawmakers’ thinking, the invitation was, in a way, an anti-Trump invitation.
To clarify, Pelosi and Lee will not be hosting a White House-style event for the entire team. This invitation applies to players, coaches, and staff who will presumably be shown around the Capitol Building and perhaps offered a subsidized starch at the Congressional cafeteria. Maybe the likes of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant would get a bigger party, but we’re not talking about the usual “president makes C- jokes” affair. It would probably just be a glorified meet-and-greet.
In other words, Pelosi (the House Minority Leader) and Lee (a consistently strong progressive voice) are making a political statement. It’s important that any members of the Warriors who RSVP to this invitation understand as much. There will be photo ops and very likely press release that point out these basketball stars chose this meeting over one with President Trump. It’s how the game is played.
But it’s equally important to understand that the same is true of every previous less controversial White House visit. While we tend to look at these events as ideologically neutral, the mere act of standing and lightly laughing at a president’s bad jokes is a political act. Simply being present communicates a position of deference to the office, even if only implicitly. These events have always been used as political tools to showcase the chief executive’s humanity, or even just to allow him to take a photo next to a few massively popular global celebrities. The difference now is not just that Donald Trump’s the president, but that we’re starting to recognize the broader implications of creating that association.
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