This week, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Obama at the White House. It's a longstanding tradition; the team lines up behind the president, the president makes a few corny jokes about needing his own offensive line or whatever, photographers snap some easy shots, everyone goes away happy.
Not every Raven made the trip; Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams were all occupied with their new teams' OTAs, and Bernard Pollard is not exactly on speaking terms with Baltimore after his release. And Matt Birk? Well, Matt Birk had his own reasons for not attending.
This is Washington, after all, where every move has some political significance. Birk, who retired after the season, told KFAN in Minnesota that he declined the invitation to the White House following some Planned Parenthood comments by the president.
"I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency," Birk said. "But about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, 'God bless Planned Parenthood.'"
Birk disagrees with Planned Parenthood's stance on reproductive rights. "Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year," he said. "I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't endorse that in any way ... For God to bless a place where they're ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend."
Birk may draw some heat for his decision, but regardless of your political persuasion, you have to respect him for standing up for his beliefs. Visiting the White House is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; credit to Birk for standing firm for his faith.
Now, should he have injected politics into sports? That's a whole different story. Many of the people who charged that gun control should not have been a part of an NFL discussion last year likely fall on the end of the political spectrum that agrees with Birk; should this topic too be off limits? Simple truth is that nothing, not even sports, is free from politics. It's up to each of us to decide if that's going to interfere with our enjoyment of what these guys do Sunday afternoons.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-