According to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the Washington Capitals intend to visit the Trump White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship, and the Caps and Trump administration are discussing when, not if, the visit will occur.
Clemson’s visit to the White House has led to more twitter dot com talk about when Caps might be going to celebrate their championship there. I’ve been told that the two sides are still talking about a date.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) January 15, 2019
In a December mailbag piece, Khurshudyan added that she believed the team will visit eventually and there had been a rumor of a January or February date. The Capitals have a bye week during the end of January.
Thursday night, the Washington Times’ Adam Zielonka confirmed the reporting, but could not get White House officials to comment on the matter.
While the Capitals’ visit has taken months to lock down, President Trump needed less than a week to welcome the NCAA champion Clemson University (South Carolina) to the White House for a fast-food buffet that included McDonald’s Quarter Pounders, Big Macs and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, Chicken McNuggets, Domino’s pizza, french fries, and Wendy’s wraps.
Last June, Trump said he would not invite the NBA champion after Stephen Curry and LeBron James said publicly that their teams had no interest in a prospective White House visit. Nearly three quarters of the players in the NBA are black. Two years ago, James tweeted to Trump that “going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
Trump also pulled an invite for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles due to the team bringing a “smaller delegation” rather than their full team. According to Wikipedia, black players make up 68 percent of the league.
Trump on NBA champion visiting the White House (LeBron and Curry both said their teams wouldn’t visit): “I didn’t invite LeBron James, and I didn’t invite Steph Curry. We’re not gonna invite either team. But we have other teams that are coming.” pic.twitter.com/xh7PYUhCWM
— Axios (@axios) June 8, 2018
“I think we’ll have the Caps. We’ll see,” Trump added then. “You know, my attitude is if they want to be here, the greatest place on Earth, I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them.”
In a tweet after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, Trump singled out the team’s Russian captain, Alex Ovechkin, and called him “spectacular.”
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular – a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2018
“The things that [Donald Trump] spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” Smith-Pelly said. “I already have my mind made up.”
But during the Capitals’ breakdown day in June, most of the team seemed happy to visit.
Ovechkin, a friend and supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, was excited.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward. I can’t wait,” Ovechkin said. “I never been there. I want to take pictures around it. It will be fun.”
Other stars like TJ Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom echoed Ovechkin’s sentiment, saying a visit would be “amazing” and “pretty cool.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik took a more diplomatic approach, via the Washington Post.
“We all have our opinions on it; it’s a very sensitive issue,” Orpik said. “It’s just kind of the way things are going these days. If you don’t have the same belief as somebody else then automatically they think you’re wrong and they take it personally, which politics isn’t supposed to be that way. You’re allowed to have disagreement, but my opinion is that you’re supposed to respect the other person’s decision.”
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis, who helped raise money for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has left the decision up to the team on if they should visit or not.
“What I have said is, we’re in Washington, D.C., and the players and the coaching staff have to decide,” Leonsis said to the Washington Post in October. “I’m not going to influence, and if we go to the White House, I will go to the White House. But they haven’t made it to that conversation and a vote yet. . . . I’m sure at some point as the season gets started, there’ll be a team meeting, and they’ll talk about it and come out and tell us what to do.”
The last NHL team to win the Stanley Cup before the Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, visited the White House on October 10, 2017. Team officials tried to separate the visit from politics but faced widespread criticism.
A possible White House visit is fraught with controversy. Trump’s presidential campaign is currently being investigated by the special counsel to uncover possible links or coordination with the Russian government, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Further, the federal government is now under a partial shutdown — which the president says he owns — in order to seek $5 billion in funding from Congress for a border wall. The shutdown has left many local area workers without paychecks — many of whom are undoubtedly Caps fans. It’s unclear if all government contractors will ever recoup lost pay.
In July, Trump gave Russian President Vladimir Putin an Alex Ovechkin jersey during a meeting in Helsinki. Ovechkin soon may have the opportunity to return to the favor.
Headline photo: Joyce N. Boghosian/Official White House Photograph
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