Since President Trump took office last January, it has varied whether professional and collegiate sports teams have accepted an invitation to visit the White House after winning a championship.
Both of last year’s NCAA DI college basketball champions — South Carolina’s women’s basketball team and UNC on the men’s side — declined invites, although they were because of scheduling conflicts, not to make any sort of statement.
The Golden State Warriors did make a statement with Steph Curry speaking about the political differences between the team and the president before their invitation being rescinded before they technically publicly decided whether to go. They decided to use a future trip to Washington D.C. to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion.”
The Penguins and Patriots both accepted invitations and attended, although not every athlete joined in on the visits, which isn’t a different outcome compared to visits under past administrations, but people are more attuned to who does and does not go to D.C. when invited by Trump. The 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs also went to the White House, but they did it twice — once when Obama was still in office (ostensibly because of the Chicago connection,) and once more after Trump was inaugurated.
The team’s president of business operations Reid Ryan said of the choice:
“This is a tradition and an honor. For many people, this might be their only time to ever be invited to the White House. And as the representatives of baseball and the World Series champs, when the White House calls and invites you to come up, it’s something that as an organization we felt both a responsibility and an obligation to be part of.”
The team may make the visit during Spring Training during which they have a few days off, but which specific members of the roster will attend has not been decided on yet.
It is entirely possible — in fact probable — that some members of the Astros will not join their teammates because of political reasons, even if they don’t publicly state that reasoning as to why they decline to attend. Knowing how other announcements from professional teams about attending or not attending have gone so far, this isn’t the end of political speculation about the decision.
For now, Houston is citing a responsibility and obligation to go, and its players will make a personal decision as to whether they agree with the importance of that obligation when they consider attending.