U.Va. men’s basketball team will not celebrate championship at White House

Head coach Tony Bennett says the Cavaliers “respectfully decline” a potential visit to the White House

Virginia men's basketball won its first national championship title in program history in April 2019, but will not celebrate with a visit to the White House. Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia men’s basketball team will not be celebrating its national championship with President Trump at the White House, per a statement from head coach Tony Bennett released Friday.

Bennett said the team has “received inquires about a visit to the White House” but will be declining an invitation because several players are preparing to play professional basketball.

“With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVa, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together,” Bennett wrote. “We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”

Former Virginia guard De’Andre Hunter — who hit the game-tying shot in the national championship game against Texas Tech — tweeted “No Thanks Trump” in response to the team’s statement. He later deleted the tweet.

The decision to not visit the White House comes the same day as Trump publicly defended his comments in the wake of the deadly Unite the Rally in August 2017, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.” 

“I have answered that question, and if you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly,” Trump said Friday afternoon. “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great [Confederate] general.”

Larry Sabato, director of the University's Center for Politics, said on Twitter that the team’s decision to not visit Trump was “diplomatically handled.”

“The President's thoughtless comments today on #Charlottesville made this easier, I suspect,” Sabato said.

Earlier this month, University alumna Lacey Kohlmoos created an online petition urging the team to forgo an invite to join Trump at the White House. The petition has now accumulated more than 15,000 signatures. 

Previous men’s basketball champions Villanova and North Carolina also declined to visit Trump at the White House.

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