Manager Joe Maddon will be part of a Chicago Cubs contingent that revisits the White House on Wednesday, and he’ll do so happily. He said Tuesday that he was pleased the event will have a relaxed dress code, pleased to make a trip that’s important to his owners, and pleased to visit the home of the country’s chief executive.
White House visits have seemingly become a weekly debate in sports; Warriors star Stephen Curry indicated this month that he would likely decline a White House invite, and teammate Andre Iguodala offered a more emphatic no. Maddon said to decline an invitation “absolutely” is a political statement, and he showed little admiration for such a stance.
“To go tomorrow is out of respect for the Ricketts family and to the office and the building itself,” Maddon said before Tuesday’s game at Nationals Park. “I mean, listen, I like the United States a lot. I like living here a lot. I like everything that it represents a lot. So when you get a chance, as a citizen, to get to go to the White House, you go. I think you go.
“And whether you like the person that’s running the country or not, out of respect for the office itself, you go,” Maddon said. “I don’t agree with all the other banter that’s going on right now, because I have a different perspective. I like living here a lot. I like this country a lot. And I would much prefer living here than some of the other places that adopt different methods of government. So I think sometimes that gets confused. People want to take a stand, not really realizing actually what we have here, which is a lot better than most everyplace else.”
The Chicago Sun-Times polled 22 of the team’s 27 players this week, finding that 12 planned to go on the trip and 10 would decline.
Maddon mentioned that the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, has been “tied in there really well” with the Trump White House. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts was chosen by Trump to serve as commerce deputy secretary before withdrawing himself from consideration because of financial conflict rules. Another family member, J. Joe Ricketts, who opposed Trump during the Republican primaries, later became a major financial backer.
“I think the president just knew that we all were going to be here going to baseball games and thought it would be fun to come up and have an unofficial visit with the team,” Todd Rickets told the Sun-Times, calling the visit “more social and unofficial and not like the last time.” The Cubs made their official visit in January, where they were feted by former president Barack Obama.
“Whatever Mr. Ricketts would like me to do, I’m gonna do,” Maddon said. “Mr. Ricketts and the Ricketts family has been good to all of us. So part of that is that, and the other part is whenever you have a chance to go to the White House, I think it’s easy to say yes out of respect to the office and the building itself.”
Maddon also cited his relationship with his hometown friend Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), who has helped set up Wednesday’s White House visit and also an event for Young Republicans at a nearby restaurant that Maddon indicated he would attend. The manager said he didn’t know whether the Cubs traveling party would see or meet with President Trump, calling it “a possibility.”
Maddon said the dress code was more informal this time by necessity, because the trip was finalized late. He promised to have “my best pair of jeans on tomorrow and a nice shirt, which I’m really digging on.” And he reiterated several times that the trip was “absolutely voluntary” for players.
“I don’t have any rules to begin with,” he said. “I just want you to run hard to first base. As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House or not. As long as my pitchers work on defense, they can do whatever they want tomorrow. And furthermore, not having to wear a suit I think is the best part of this whole trip, because to me, to have to dress a certain way to impress somebody, my God, nobody would ever fail. So I’m all about all of the circumstances right now.”