Players have every right to visit the White House after a title victory. But the rush to do so angered many fans in a city where the President is reviled

This past Saturday marked a monumental day in DC sports history. The scrappy underdog Washington Nationals, at one point 19-31 and now improbable World Series champions, paraded down Constitution Avenue as approximately 750,000 fans showered the team with affection. When Nats fans werent screaming FIGHT FINISHED, they were rhythmically interlacing their fingers to the teams unlikely anthem, Baby Shark, for the millionth time. Beaming smiles and cheers were everywhere as manager Davey Martinez spoke of bumpy roads leading to beautiful places; the longest tenured National Ryan Zimmerman teared up as he thanked DC, and pinch hitter Brian Dozier took off his shirt and preened around the stage to the Latin pop hit, Calma. It was a remarkable day for Nats fans to bottle forever and the latest example of how sports can be a unifying force

Forty-eight hours later everything changed. The Nationals went to the White House. It was way too soon.

The tradition of welcoming championship sports teams has been commonplace since the Ronald Reagan era. Some individual athletes snubbed the invite in the pre-Trump years but most teams attended whether they were aligned with a particular Presidents politics or just wanted to hang with their teammates and check out the White House bowling alley.

Things have shifted since Trump became President. The country is more divided than ever and Trumps mere presence invokes feelings of rage and sadness to a significant portion of America. Teams such as the Golden State Warriors and the University of Virginia Cavaliers have collectively declined the White House invite or were preemptively not invited even the New England Patriots didnt go back this year. Yet attending is still the norm. The Nationals shouldnt be begrudged for appearing at the White House, but they should have known (they had to know) that incorporating Trump in a celebration that was still fresh and exhilarating was going to squander some goodwill.

Usually White House visits are scheduled well in advance, so to hold this ceremony less than a week after the series wrapped was jarring. By contrast, the Washington Capitals visited the White House more than nine months after they won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Its as if Trump pettily wanted to destroy the joy of those Nats fans who booed and yelled lock him up when he attended Game 5 of the World Series.

Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell)

Kurt Suzuki and Donald Trump… pic.twitter.com/DhwPTs3OCL

November 4, 2019

If that was the plan, it worked like a charm, thanks in large part to catcher Kurt Suzuki who decided to don a Make America Great Again hat as Trump hugged him from behind and cupped his chest. Suzuki told USA Todays Bob Nightingale that he was trying to have fun and expressed his displeasure with the fan reaction. Everybody makes everything political. It was about our team winning the World Series. Nice try, Kurt.

No item in America is more polarizing than a MAGA hat. For progressives, it signifies mass discrimination, racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, tyranny. Pick your form of hate. Its not a symbol of policy, its a form of tribal identification. Arguably the most famous athlete in America, Tom Brady, still gets grief four years after someone placed one in his locker Suzuki must have been aware of that. So yes, wearing a MAGA hat is about as political as it gets these days. Zimmerman, meanwhile, used his platform at the ceremony to praise Trumps presidency: Wed also like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country, and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in the world.

No wonder so many Nats fans feel so disheartened by the White House visit. Not gonna lie: having spent the past decade cheering on the Nats and the last several months obsessed w/ their playoff journey, its pretty heartbreaking to see Kurt Suzuki and company go far beyond polite reception and cozying up to a monster who hates people like me, tweeted Charlotte Clymer, a queer writer and veteran, on Monday.

Charlotte Clymer

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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