EDITORIAL: Stop politicizing U.Va. men’s basketball

Players should decide for themselves whether or not to accept a potential White House invitation

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If the White House sends an invitation to the team, the individual players should not take this petition into consideration when making their decision on whether or not they attend.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

After the historic win by the Virginia men’s basketball team, Lacey Kohlmoos — an alumna of the University — created an online petition calling for the team to refuse the traditional White House invitation should it be sent. The petition specifically says President Donald Trump has “turned a blind eye or outright supported racists,” and that “by accepting a White House invitation, the team would be condoning the president’s reprehensible and divisive behavior, which is unacceptable.” 

In creating this petition — which currently has over 13,000 supporters — Kohlmoos is attempting to politicize a spectacular moment in Virginia men’s basketball history by shaming the team into conforming with politics they may not agree with. Although, the White House has yet to send an invitation to the team, if it does, the individual players on the team should not take this petition into consideration when making their decision on whether or not they attend. The Virginia men’s basketball team should have the freedom to deny or accept said invitation for their own reasons without capitulating under the pressure of partisan activists. This is especially important when considering America’s history of having sports teams visit the White House.

Inviting sports teams to visit the White House following significant victories is a longstanding tradition that can be traced back to 1865 with two baseball teams during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. The invitation honors the team’s hard work and achievement during the season. However, in recent years, it has become less of an honored tradition and more of a political spectacle, which has affected both the administration extending the invitation and the sports teams.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who hosted several basketball national champions, Trump has yet to host a winning basketball team since taking office. However, several teams and individual players — in various sports aside from basketball — have also declined to visit the White House upon receiving an invitation for political reasons. These individual players — such as those from the New England Patriots who refused to visit the White House following their 2019 Super Bowl win — were heavily criticized for their decision by some and supported by others. However, being invited to the White House after a sports win should stay relatively non-partisan as the players likely span different parts of the ideological spectrum and should instead be perceived as an honor.

Additionally, if the basketball team should decide to accept an invitation from the White House — or even if only a select number of individuals should do so — they would not be condoning or disregarding Trump’s behavior. The team would simply be accepting another accolade for their outstanding effort and achievements this season. Thus, no one should attempt to prevent the team from accepting said honor if it is their desire to do so. Certainly individual players retain the right to decline the invitation if they so choose. But it should remain their decision, not that of individuals outside of the team who wish to turn their hard-earned win into a political statement.

As exciting as this monumental win was for Virginia fans across the country, it is important to recognize this moment is for the men that worked hard to bring such an historic victory to the University. Let’s keep it that way, instead of allowing yet another part of our society succumb to toxic partisanship. 

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors and their Senior Associate. The board can be reached at eb@cavalierdaily.com.

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