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 for Washington since 1924, when the Senators were champions.
After the Nationals clinched the championship, 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.
“People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president, and I think over the course of his time in office he’s done a lot of things that maybe don’t respect the office,” Doolittle told The Washington Post.
“I don’t want people to think I took the decision lightly, but I also didn’t want to go and be a distraction in any way to anyone who wanted to have that experience,” he continued. “I just figured it was best if I respectfully declined. . . .
“I feel like there are a lot of issues, a lot of things that have been said, a lot of things that have been said by the president, a lot of things that have been done by the administration that I can’t, no matter what, I can’t reconcile with what I believe in, what I feel very strongly about. . . . There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country.”
“This is not one bit surprising for LGBTQ Nats fans because we’ve long been supported by” Doolittle and Dolan, 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.”
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 because of 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 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 this 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, 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.
Trump critics have lobbied the Nationals not to visit the White House. 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. Andrés threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the World Series game Trump attended.
Like many baseball teams, the Nationals have a diverse roster, including players from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Cuba. None of the players have appeared to criticize the president in public, however, and although team owners Ted and Mark Lerner are Democrats, they also have not criticized Trump publicly.
“He has every right to come,” Mark Lerner told The 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.”