Mookie Betts said Saturday that he won’t accompany his World Series champion Boston Red Sox on their rescheduled visit to the White House. The reigning American League MVP became the latest member of the team to either say he wasn’t going or indicate he was considering skipping the visit, which was pushed from February to May because of the partial government shutdown.
Betts did not cite President Trump as his reason for staying away, as champion athletes such as members of the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia Eagles have done. “I won’t be going there. I decided not to” was all Betts had to say about it, according to the Boston Globe.
Betts, 26, made his comments while in New York to attend the Baseball Writers' Association of America awards dinner, at which he accepted his first league MVP award and the 11th in Red Sox history. The fifth-year right fielder led Boston to a team-record 108 wins while earning his third straight Gold Glove award and leading the AL in batting average, slugging percentage and runs.
Betts’s absence will be a notable one when the Red Sox visit the White House after a May road trip to Baltimore to play the Orioles. The only other Red Sox player thus far to state publicly he won’t go has been third baseman Rafael Devers, who said this month that it wasn’t related to politics.
“The opportunity was presented, and I just wasn’t compelled to go,” Devers said at the time. According to the Red Sox, attendance at the event won’t be mandatory and some other players, including shortstop Xander Bogaerts, infielder Eduardo Nunez and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, have reportedly indicated that they’re still mulling their decisions.
The Globe described Red Sox Manager Alex Cora as “unlikely” to attend, which would mark an apparent change in his stance. “I’m going to use my platform the right way. I’m not going to embarrass anybody,” Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, said in December. “Actually, I’m going to represent 4 million people from back home the right way when we go there.”
Cora had previously criticized Trump for deriding an increase in the Puerto Rican government’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria to nearly 3,000. The president tweeted in September that when he “left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” and that the increase “was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.”
“To be tweeting about 3,000 people and be efficient, it’s actually disrespectful for my country,” Cora said then. “We see it that way. I know probably he doesn’t feel that way. And like I said, ‘Hey, man, thank you for helping us.’ He went down there, he did what he did. I hate talking about politics and all that, but I think this is more than politics.”
“I respect him. He’s the president of the United States. But I don’t agree with a lot of stuff that he says about us,” the manager added.
After the Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series, two players from Puerto Rico — star shortstop Carlos Correa and veteran outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Beltran — did not accompany the team to the White House the following March. Beltran said he was disappointed in the U.S. government’s response to the hurricane, and Correa said he was using the time to arrange for another shipment of relief supplies to his ravaged territory.
Other title-winning athletes have pinpointed Trump as the reason they declined a White House visit, including the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, who said in 2017 that he and his teammates “don’t stand for . . . the things that he said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right terms,” which resulted in the president publicly uninviting Golden State. Instead, the Warriors used a 2018 road trip to Washington to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a group of local schoolchildren, and last week, having won a second straight NBA championship in June, they made a point of spending some time while in D.C. with Barack Obama.
Trump also declared that the Eagles were no longer welcome to visit his White House, saying in June, less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl champions were expected to arrive in the Rose Garden, that he was revoking the invitation because some Philadelphia players “disagree” with him on the issue of protests during the national anthem. “The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation,” Trump said in a statement, “but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
Other championship squads have visited the White House since Trump took office, although not always with their full complement of players, also the case during previous administrations, for varying reasons. The most recent team to do so, the Clemson Tigers football squad, became involved in a headline-grabbing episode when Trump, citing a lack of staff earlier this month during the shutdown, served them a buffet of items from fast-food chains.
A few members of the Red Sox, per the Globe, have said they will attend the White House visit, including Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt.
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