The members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins team, who had a perfect 17-0 season, will be honored at the White House by President Obama on Tuesday. However, at least three members from that team have chosen not to attend the festivities for political reasons, David Hyde of the Sun Sentinel reports.
Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, guard Bob Kuechenberg and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez are skipping the event because of politics and President Obama, with Hyde adding that two have been on the fence about attending for similar reasons.
"We've got some real moral compass issues in Washington," Langer said. "I don't want to be in a room with those people and pretend I'm having a good time. I can't do that. If that (angers) people, so be it."
The '72 Dolphins were unable to visit the White House after their historic season as President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal.
The choice of whether or not to attend this non-political, ceremonial event is an individual decision that athletes have every right to make. These three Dolphins will not be the first athletes to decline a White House invitation while Obama has been in office, either.
Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk each skipped White House visits for political reasons, as well. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison skipped White House visit with President George W. Bush in 2006, but remained consistent by skipping the visit with President Obama in 2009. Steelers linebacker Joey Porter planned to use the '06 visit with President Bush to let him know that he did not agree with the way the country was being run. Porter ended up not sharing his thoughts with President Bush, but did attend the event with his teammates.
While Langer, Kuechenberg and Fernandez have every right to skip this event, it's unfortunate that they've chosen to put their own political views ahead of being with their friends and former teammates, who are finally being honored by the White House for their excellent season. Had a White House visit occurred in 1973, surely there would have several players on that Dolphins team with political views that ran opposite of those held by Nixon. However, it's a safe bet that those players would have attended the event because invitations to the White House to be honored by the President of the United States are rare and those players would not have put their own interests ahead of those of the team.