The difference is that the Tar Heels were invited to be the only team feted that day, much as football’s Clemson Tigers were earlier in the year, as well as major professional sports champions. The NCAA women’s champions had received their own invitations to the White House every year since 1983 (per Yahoo Sports), but Staley said last month that she was “over” waiting for one to be extended to her Gamecocks.
“Here’s my take, and I’m not going to discuss the White House anymore. As far as I’m concerned, I’m over the White House thing,” Staley said at the time. “The only invitation I would like is an invitation to get into the NCAA tournament in March. That’s the only invite that I’m looking forward to.”
Staley echoed that language Thursday, saying in a statement, “We did hear from the White House about attending [Friday’s event], but we will not be able to attend. As I’ve been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”
Some members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots cited an antipathy to Trump’s policies in declining to accompany the team on a White House visit this year. In September, the president tweeted that he was rescinding an invitation for the NBA champion Warriors, after Golden State’s Steph Curry told reporters that he and his teammates weren’t interested, saying that “by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”
By contrast, after South Carolina’s triumph in April, Staley had said, “It’s what national champions do. We’ll go to the White House.”
However, the No. 2-ranked Gamecocks won’t be going. Instead, they’ll focus on repeating their feat by becoming the 2018 NCAA champions, a task for which they may now be armed with a little more motivation.
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