New York Daily News sports, race and social issues columnist Carron J. Phillips has figured out the litmus test President Donald Trump uses to determine which sports champions receive invitations to the White House and those that don’t. It’s mainly based on the race and gender of the athletes, among other questionable motives. Which is why it’s better for the NHL Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to follow the lead of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles and not attend a celebration with the president.
In a column that News Wire Services contributed to, Phillips outlines six reasons explaining why the Caps should stay away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
- Trump’s invitations are based on race and gender:
Contrary to the races displayed of Alabama's national football championship team visit to the White House earlier this year, Phillips writes, “Trump's affinity for selecting whom he wants to visit the White House based on the person’s race and gender has led to these visits turning into a political litmus test for athletes.”
Devante Smith-Pelly, one of two black players on the Caps, has already said he isn’t likely to attend a White House visit:
"The things that he (Trump) spews are straight-up racist and sexist. Some of the things he's said are pretty gross. I'm not too into politics, so I don't know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don't agree with. It hasn't come up here, but I think I already have my mind made up."
- Trump’s Fake patriotism:
Phillips’ headline states: “Donald Trump inviting a Capitals team of mostly non-Americans to the White House, while spurning other teams, is another example of his fake patriotism”.
Cornell University professor Grant Farred told Phillips he believes that the president is going to the well too many times with his supporters by repeatedly harping on anthem protests and questioning players' patriotism. "How many swing voters can he afford to alienate?" Farred asked.
Most of the Caps’ players are citizens of other countries, and they aren’t all aligned with Trump’s patriotism. And Phillips says, “ … if this was really about patriotism, a team with only seven Americans on it should be less considered.”
- A team photo without Smith-Pelly wouldn’t look good.
Phillips writes: “Smith-Pelly's absence would speak volumes for two reasons. First, one of the two black players on the team would be missing from the photo. And second, one of the ‘clutchest’ performers from the (Stanley Cup) series would be nowhere to be found.”
“Smith-Pelly is one of the two black players on the Capitals roster and played a huge part in the team winning its first Stanley Cup title. During the postseason, he scored seven goals, matching his entire total over 75 regular-season games.
“He also tied Ovechkin for most third-period goals this postseason (5), as his goals in Games 3, 4 and 5 either sealed the deal for the Caps, put them ahead for good or tied the game when they were trailing.”
- It’s difficult for athletes to have politics thrust on them.
Professor Farred said: "It's incredibly difficult for these athletes, and not a choice they have imposed on themselves."
He added: "A reporter is asking you about your win, and you're now having to deal with an obviously political question, not of your making. It's not a good situation to be in, one way or the other."
While Farred admits it's the media dragging athletes into sports, University of Southern California sociologist Ben Carrington disputes the notion that politics are even a distraction for them:
"Sports are not a distraction from politics—they are politics by a different means. Because Trump's administration is so highly charged, it's understandable that many players would refuse to attend. It's happened before, but never on this scale."
- President Trump has those links with Russia:
Phillips waded into the subject of alleged Russian collusion, reminding readers that the Caps’ best player is from Russia. “But yet, our President, whose campaign has been linked to having dealings with Russia, has deemed Capitals star and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin as a ‘true superstar’ and would prefer that a team full of non-Americans visit his home to be celebrated, rather than inviting championship teams full of actual Americans.”
Those Trumps are certainly cozy with Russians. Last weekend White House senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner posed for a picture with Ovechkin, prompting Phillips to write:
“Because when you realize that Kushner, who was named as a ‘very senior’ member of Trump's transition team, reportedly directed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, to contact Russia, you then suddenly understand why taking a picture with a ‘Russian superstar’ is a really bad idea.”
- Finally, White House sports celebrations are all about the president’s ego, Phillips states:
“It's about one man's ego and his affinity for only inviting people to his house who will stroke it.”
And now we know Phillips' litmus tests for determining if championship sports teams should visit a White House with Donald Trump in it.