WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump welcomed the Boston Red Sox to the White House on the South Lawn Thursday — but the winners of the 2018 World Series didn’t quite return the welcome in big-league style.
About a third of the team members opted out of the event. Manager Alex Cora pointedly boycotted the celebration as a protest for what he sees as inadequate disaster relief for his native Puerto Rico, which still hasn’t recovered since Hurricane Maria slammed the U.S. territory in 2017.
“I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House,” Cora said in a statement to the New York Times.
Trump clearly was aware of the controversy. When reporters asked him about the Red Sox earlier in the day, Trump responded, “We have given Puerto Rico $91 billion for the hurricane. The people of Puerto Rico should really like President Trump.”
That is a claim Politifact consistently has rated as false. “Trump arrived at that figure by combining the $41 billion already allocated with additional FEMA costs expected to reach $50 billion. But that future payment is speculative, and it will be years before we know how much of it is realized,” the fact-checking organization explained.
Cora is hardly the first professional team player, or even team, to skip the limelight at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Celtics ace Larry Bird famously skipped an invitation to Ronald Reagan’s White House, saying, “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.”
When President Barack Obama was in charge, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas skipped a celebration of his team’s Stanley Cup victory in 2012 because, “I believe the federal government has grown out of control.”
Cora maintains that there is no tension between those who chose to stay home and those who attended the South Lawn ceremony, even though the division between those who attended and those who did not tended to fall along racial lines. Boston sportswriter Steve Buckley had tweeted that essentially the “white Sox” would be attending.
Alex Cora has confirmed newspaper report he will not make the trip to meet the president. So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.
— Steve Buckley (@BuckinBoston) May 5, 2019
A standout exception was outfielder-designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who is of Cuban descent. Martinez thanked Trump for a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and awarded the president with a Red Sox jersey.
Afterward, Trump promised, he would show the players the Lincoln Bedroom.
When Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to golf superstar Tiger Woods, Woods became an object of ridicule for Trump critics. Late night comic Jimmy Kimmel quipped, “Trump finally gets a black athlete to come to the White House” to accept an award.
The NFL agonizes over whether to accept White House invitations; “the NBA is a no-show,” noted Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen; college football is “the only thing Trump can count on” — and that’s because winning teams often hail from red states.
Trump has had to endure boycotts from before he was sworn into office. Close to 60 House Democrats announced they would skip Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.
In February, Nevada’s new Democratic Governor, Steve Sisolak, announced he would not attend any National Governors Association events at the White House in protest of a Department of Energy shipment of half a metric ton of plutonium to a federal nuclear storage facility north of Las Vegas.
After Trump equated white supremacists in Charlottesville to those who protested against them in August 2017, horrified CEOs abandoned Trump’s business advisory panels. It was such a stampede, Trump was forced to disband them.
“Rather than putting pressure on businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council and Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” the president tweeted.
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
In March, however, Trump held an event with his American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, on which Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty serve. In 2017, Cook and Rometty publicly distanced themselves from Trump’s rhetoric.
On its Web site, the White House touted the event as a World Series celebration with the “Red Socks.” After Twitter made hay with misspelling, the White House corrected the record to “Red Sox.”