Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Matt Gaetz, Mark Meadows

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park in Washington on Sunday. With them are Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., second from left, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C, right. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals have accepted an invitation to visit President Trump at the White House on Monday for the traditional champions celebration, less than a week after winning their first World Series.

But already, one prominent team member, relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, has said he does not plan to attend, the latest example of the highly politicized nature of such ceremonial events during Trump’s presidency.

The quick turnaround for the celebration is unusual, but most of the players are in town for a parade Saturday in downtown Washington, and White House officials said the timing works well for the team and the president. The ceremony will take place at 1:15 p.m. on the South Lawn, a White House official said.

The White House made the formal announcement on Twitter.

The Nationals defeated the Houston Astros, 6-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday night to clinch the title 14 years after the franchise arrived from Montreal. It marked the first World Series title in Washington since 1924, when the Senators were champions.

Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and several Republican members of Congress, attended Game 5 of the World Series last weekend at Nationals Park. He received a mixed reaction from the sellout crowd of more than 42,000 fans, including a loud chorus of boos. Chants of “lock him up” were audible in parts of the stadium.

Before that game, Nationals pitcher Aníbal Sánchez said the president had a right to attend “if it’s something that he wants to do. Of course, everybody has to respect that situation.”

After the Nationals clinched the title, Trump tweeted to the team: “Congratulations to the Washington Nationals on a great season and an incredible World Series. Game 7 was amazing!”

Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan, have been involved in political and social issues, including working with Syrian refugees and military veterans and supporting gay rights. The Trump administration has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the United States and rolled back rights for LGBTQ communities, including imposing restrictions on military service for transgender Americans.

The pitcher confirmed in a message to The Washington Post that he does not plan to attend the White House visit.

“This is not one bit surprising for LGBTQ Nats fans because we’ve long been supported by” Doolittle and his wife, Charlotte Clymer, a press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, wrote on Twitter. “They don’t back down when it comes to equality. They know what’s at stake for marginalized communities in this country, and they take that seriously.”

Doolittle has not specifically spoken out against Trump.

In October 2016, he did react to the disclosure of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump several years earlier was recorded making lewd comments about sexually abusing women. Trump, then a candidate for the White House, defended the remarks as “locker room talk.”

“As an athlete, I’ve been in locker rooms my entire adult life and uh, that’s not locker room talk,” Doolittle, then with the Oakland Athletics, wrote on Twitter.

Presidents have been celebrating sports champions on a regular basis since Ronald Reagan’s administration, and athletes have occasionally opted out for political reasons.

But the ceremonies have become more politicized in the Trump era as some high-profile teams have said they are not interested in visiting over objections to the president’s policies. Perhaps fearful of public rejections, the White House has declined to invite other teams, including those from the WNBA, a league whose champions had traditionally received invitations under previous presidents.

In January, the Golden State Warriors, who won the NBA title in both 2017 and 2018, met privately with former President Barack Obama. It was an implicit rebuke of Trump, who had rescinded an invitation to the team in 2017 after star guard Stephen Curry said he was not interested in visiting.

Trump has hosted the past two World Series champions – the 2017 Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox. But the Red Sox were sharply divided along racial lines, with most minority players choosing not to attend. Members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, which won the World Cup in the summer, stated publicly that they would not accept an invitation to the White House, and the president has not offered one.

In March, Trump hosted the Washington Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup last year, holding a photo op with the players in the Oval Office. However, the president has not invited the Washington Mystics, who won the WNBA title this year.

Trump critics have lobbied the Nationals not to visit. Nate Mook, executive director of World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, tweeted Thursday that the team should not visit the White House and mocked Trump for serving fast food to some sports teams.

Instead, the Nationals should “really just go over to” Andrés’s house for dinner, Mook wrote. Andrés, who has helped organize relief efforts, including meals in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, has criticized the Trump administration’s response to that storm.

Like many baseball teams, the Nationals have a diverse roster, including players from Venezuela, such as Sánchez; the Dominican Republic; Brazil; and Cuba. None of the players has appeared to criticize the president in public, however, and although team owners Ted and Mark Lerner are Democrats, they have also not criticized Trump publicly.

“He has every right to come,” Mark Lerner told The Washington Post ahead of Trump’s appearance at Game 5. “He’s the president of the United States whether you like him or not. It’s a special event. He should be at it.”

Writing in the Nation, a liberal magazine, Peter Dreier, a politics professor at Occidental College, argued in a column posted hours before the White House announced the visit that the Nationals should not accept an invitation.

“Does it really make sense to ask those players to ignore Trump’s divisive comments and policies that degrade immigrants and people of color?” Dreier wrote.


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