First Washington Nationals Player Rejects White House Celebration with Trump: 'I Can't Do It'
The Washington Nationals may be headed to the White House to celebrate their World Series victory, but at least one of their players won’t be in attendance.
On Friday, pitcher Sean Doolittle announced that he would not be accepting the invitation because of his disagreements with the “divisive“ behavior of President Donald Trump.
“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,” he told The Washington Post on Friday, as he became the first player to confirm he would not be attending the celebration slated for Monday.
“My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done wok with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘s— countries,’ ” he added, a reference to the term Trump reportedly used to refer to some African nations, along with Haiti and El Salvador, in January 2018.
Doolittle added that while sharing the experience with his teammates would be a meaningful experience, accepting the invitation would have gone against his beliefs.
“At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it,” he said. “I just can’t do it.”
Doolittle, who said he would respect his teammates who did decide to go, went on to address some of the criticism he will face. “People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president,” he told the Post. “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.”
The pitcher, who publicly spoke out against the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, also spoke about how Trump’s rhetoric has “enabled” racism.
“It feels like now people with those beliefs, they maybe feel a little bit more empowered. They feel like they have a path, maybe,” he said. “I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.”
The Washington Nationals did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
While Trump typically extends White House invitations to championship-winning teams, it’s not unusual for some players to decline to attend.
Last year, when the Boston Red Sox traveled to Washington, D.C., almost all of the team’s players of color chose to not make the trip, including pitcher, David Price, Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and manager Alex Cora, specifically citing Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where Cora was born and raised.
Additionally, the New England Patriots — who won the Super Bowl in February — never ended up traveling to D.C. this year, although they never formally declined the offer. In August, The New York Times reported the White House and the team were not able to agree on a date and that a visit seemed unlikely.
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Trump did not receive the warmest welcome during the World Series, and was booed twice by Nationals fans.
Although the president was not physically present for Wednesday’s final game, which took place in Houston, critics of Trump’s who attended a free viewing party at Nationals Park, booed the president when a campaign ad of his aired during a commercial break.