The Virginia men’s basketball team will not visit the White House, Coach Tony Bennett said in a statement Friday evening, citing potential logistical complications because multiple players on the national championship team have declared for the NBA draft.
“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House,” Bennett said. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”
The announcement came less than two weeks after Bennett, during a news conference April 13 following a ceremony at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville honoring the Cavaliers, first faced the question of whether he and his players would accept an invitation to the White House to visit President Trump.
Bennett said at the time that a decision would be made at a later date.
Two days after that, De’Andre Hunter, a redshirt sophomore, and Ty Jerome, a junior, declared for the NBA draft via social media posts. Kyle Guy, the Final Four’s most outstanding player, and Mamadi Diakite subsequently posted to their social media accounts their intentions of turning pro.
There had been a great deal of intrigue regarding how the Cavaliers would handle a potential White House visit, particularly given Trump’s statements on the heels of a white nationalist rally near the school’s campus in 2017 that resulted in the death of a counterprotester.
On Friday, Trump said his initial comments about the rally, including indicating there were “fine people” on both sides, were in reference to supporters of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.
“I have answered that question, and if you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly,” Trump said outside the White House.
Trump’s remarks came the day after former vice president Joe Biden included the Charlottesville tragedy in his formal announcement that he would be running for president.
The Cavaliers become the third consecutive national champion in men’s basketball not to visit the White House since Trump became president.
Villanova won the NCAA title in 2018 and did not go, with Coach Jay Wright saying the Wildcats did not receive an invitation. North Carolina, which won the national championship in 2017, did not go to the White House because no mutually convenient date could be reached.
The Baylor women’s basketball team, winners of this year’s national championship, recently accepted an invitation to the White House.