‘Almost entirely white’ Red Sox group make Trump White House visit

‘Almost entirely white’ Red Sox group make Trump White House visit

May 10, 2019

The Boston Red Sox visited the White House on Friday (AEST) to celebrate last year's World Series baseball victory and take a photo with President Donald Trump – but prominent players of colour rejected the invitation, leaving the team's delegation almost entirely white.

Half of the team's starting line-up was missing at the White House event. Many of those who skipped the trip, including American League MVP Mookie Betts, didn't offer an explanation or cited other obligations.

Absentees: President Donald Trump holds up a jersey presented to him by the Major League champion Red Sox.Credit:AP

But some team members tied their decisions to Trump.

Pitcher Hector Velazquez, who grew up in Mexico, told Masslive.com he decided not to go because "the president has said a lot of stuff about Mexico". Velazquez said he has a lot of fans in Mexico and that he "would rather not offend anyone over there".

The team's manager, Alex Cora, said he would not attend because of Trump's treatment of Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The Red Sox players' absences underscored the social division the president has caused with remarks on race and immigration that many critics say are racist.

Trump has repeatedly disparaged undocumented Latin America immigrants as criminals. The president also said there were "very fine people on both sides" of 2017 clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Teams Disinvited

Championship athletic teams have made a tradition of visiting the White House for decades. But under Trump, the visits have taken an acrimonious turn. Trump disinvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2017 and the NFL winners Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 after black members of both teams said they wouldn't meet him following their victories.

"We don't see it as a racial divide," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner told reporters after he was asked about the absence of his team's Latino and black players. The visit was "not a mandatory" trip and "baseball is apolitical", he said.

President Trump addresses the crowd alongside the Major League trophy.Credit:AP

Werner added that the White House visit isn't going to divide the team.

The president has also been criticised for not inviting more championship women's sports teams for official visits. The Baylor University women's basketball team became the first women's champions Trump hosted for their own event last month. As he has done with championship men's college teams, the president served the Bears a buffet of fast food.

Puerto Rico

Cora was born in Puerto Rico and has been critical of the Trump administration's relief efforts following Maria. Puerto Rican officials and their congressional allies say federal contributions to the territory's reconstruction have been inadequate.

"We still have a long ways to go," Cora recently told reporters in explaining why he wasn't going to the White House. "And that's our reality. It's pretty tough, you know, to go celebrate."

Trump has repeatedly overstated the amount of federal aid provided to the island and has alleged without substantiation that some of the money was stolen by corrupt local officials.

Before the Red Sox meeting, Trump told reporters: "I think the people of Puerto Rico should really like President Trump."

Other Red Sox players who told reporters they were skipping the trip include Jackie Bradley Jr, David Price and Xander Bogaerts.

One player of Cuban descent who attended, designated hitter JD Martinez, told reporters before making the trip that it would be an honour.

"It's the White House," Martinez said. "Not a lot of people ever get to go there. So I'm really excited about it."

The official White House statement on the Red Sox event listed only two players by name as participants: Martinez and pitcher Chris Sale.


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