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Men’s College Basketball Champs Explain Why They’re Not Visiting White House

For the third year in a row, the NCAA basketball champion will not be going to celebrate their victory with President Trump.

After suffering the biggest disappointment in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history in the 2018 tournament by losing as a No. 1 seed to a No. 16 seed — the first time that’s ever happened — the University of Virginia Cavaliers helped redeem the previous year’s collapse by winning it all in 2019, beating the Texas Tech Red Raiders in overtime 85-77.

Despite being the reigning national champions, the Cavaliers will not enjoy the once-automatic White House celebration. According to the announcement by Head Coach Tony Bennett, however, rather than being political, their decision to decline an invitation to visit Trump is all about scheduling conflicts.

“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House,” Bennett said in a statement tweeted out by the team Friday. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”

Virginia is the third men’s NCAA championship team not to visit the White House. “Last year’s Villanova team did not attend the White House after winning the 2018 national title, but Jay Wright said that his team was not invited,” NBC Sports reports. “The 2017 North Carolina team that won the title did not visit the White House, but they were invited.”

While the men’s NCAA champs will not be heading to the White House, the women’s champs, the Baylor Lady Bears, announced this week that they would be attending a ceremony with Trump on Monday.

What was once assumed — championship teams traveling to the White House to be honored by the president — has now become hyper-politicized. The most high-profile of the non-visits was Golden State’s “hesitation” in 2017, which prompted Trump to rescind the offer. “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted. Golden State responded with a statement saying they hadn’t yet decided if they would go, but Trump had made the decision for them.

After Golden State won it again the next year, they announced that they’d decided in advance there would be no White House visit. “The White House is a great honor, but there’s extenuating circumstances that we felt that we’re not comfortable doing,” Golden State star Klay Thompson told the press in February 2018. “We’re not going to politicize anything, we’re just going to hang out with some kids, take them to an African-American museum and hopefully teach them things we learned along the way and life lessons, and we’ll still be getting some great memories.”

The New England Patriots visited the White House when they won in 2017 and 2019, but the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2018 visit was also canceled by the White House, this time because only a “tiny” number of the players reportedly planned to attend.

Another famous national champ White House visit was the 2019 Clemson Tigers’ celebration during the government shutdown, for which Trump personally paid for the food. The players reportedly gobbled it up. “It was awesome,” Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence told the press. “We had McDonalds and everything. It was good!”

Trump proudly posted about the event: “Great being with the National Champion Clemson Tigers last night at the White House. Because of the Shutdown I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamburgers etc. Within one hour, it was all gone. Great guys and big eaters!”

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