The Golden State Warriors Should Visit the White House
Right after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals, I heard about them not wanting to participate in the traditional White House visit. Their coach, Steve Kerr, is a big critic of President Trump. As are others within their organization, based in California, a state that Hillary Clinton won bigly.
Maybe I’ve been asleep, but this strikes me as a new thing: A team en masse not wanting to visit the White House because of the President. I don’t recall talk of individuals not wanting to visit the White House because of Obama, Bush or Clinton, much less an entire team.
An American Tradition
My memories of White House visits for championship-winning teams go back to the 1980s when I was a kid. I remember President Reagan calling to congratulate the winning team within an hour or so of their victory. They’d be in the locker room celebrating and there’d be a phone call. Reagan would come on the line with the cameras picking up the reactions from the commissioner, coaches and players. Reagan even called Walter Payton the day he broke Jim Brown’s career rushing record in 1984.
I assume some of those coaches and players didn’t vote for Reagan. But receiving the call and later visiting the White House was the gracious thing to do. The polite thing to do. The patriotic thing to do. Because the President is a representative. He (or she) is our face to the world, regardless of how we voted. Whether or not we approve of them as individuals. We salute the rank, not the man. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:17). (And if you don’t like Trump, the emperor in Peter’s day was a real doozy.)
I was mulling this over when the unthinkable happened again: An active shooter unloading round after round at innocent people. This time it was Republican congressmen, senators and their staffs. The attack was reminiscent of the tragic 2011 attack on Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, which took the lives of six people.
The Unifying Power of Sports
If the Golden State Warriors don’t want to visit the White House, that’s their right. This is America. We don’t believe in compelling citizens to attend private meetings with elected officials.
But the Warriors should visit the White House. Even more so in light of the recent gunman’s attack. They should do so in recognition that regardless of our politics we are Americans first. They should do so because sports has the power of uniting people from vastly different backgrounds. In fact President Obama made that point while congratulating the Chicago Cubs this past January, a few days before leaving office.
The Golden State Warriors don’t like the President. So what?
On a related note, I would encourage professional athletes to limit their public opining on our elected officials. Athletes have a right to free speech, of course, just like anybody else. But think about it: You guys (and gals) make the big bucks because millions of us want to watch you. We enjoy your skill and athleticism. We feel a connection with you, we identify with you, and we live vicariously through your wins and losses. But we don’t care who you voted for! We want to escape for a while, to enjoy the game with our friends — including those who disagree with our politics. (And ESPN analysts: If we wanted political commentary, we’d turn on Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow. Not you.)
We Need Unity Now More Than Ever
A lot has been written about how divided we are as a country. Antipathy between Republicans and Democrats is at an all-time high. Andrew Cline points out that a 2016 Pew Research Poll found that only 9% of Democrats would use the word “moral” to describe Republicans. And only 3% of Republicans would use that word to describe Democrats. The majority of Democrats and Republicans have a “very unfavorable” view of the other party. As recently as 1994 that was true of only 1 in 5 partisans.
We need to deescalate politics and keep it in its place — not allow it to needlessly encroach into every nook and cranny of our life. Most of life is not about politics. The Golden State Warriors don’t like the President. So what? He should invite them to the White House, and they should accept, because it’s the American thing to do.
Images have power. The Warriors in the White House, receiving congratulations from a President they’ve publicly lambasted, would send millions of sport fans (and spectators) an important message of unity, peace and tolerance. We need that message — now more than ever.
Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor at California Baptist University and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).