In recent years, the traditional visit to the White House from championship-winning teams has turned into a political hot potato.
During the administration of former President Barack Obama, some conservative players boycotted the visit, and now, under President Donald Trump, many liberal athletes have done the same.
Against that backdrop, some members of the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox visited the White House on May 9, while other players — in addition to manager Alex Cora — declined to make the trip.
But Sox slugger J.D. Martinez says the situation has not contributed to any clubhouse division.
“Was there any tension between the team that some went and some didn’t?” the TMZ interviewer asked.
“No,” Martinez responded bluntly.
Curt Smith, author of “The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House,” told The New York Times that increasing rancor has turned what started as a way for the country to transcend politics through sports into a symbol of polarization.
Smith referred to “the extraordinary partisanship on both sides, the zealotry, the hatred” that has come to characterize these White House celebrations.
“When you go to the White House, you celebrate not Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Millard Fillmore or Richard Nixon. You celebrate America,” Smith said.
Cora, who is from Puerto Rico, used the occasion as a chance to protest what he saw as the mishandling by the Trump administration of the response to the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought on his native island.
“I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different,” Cora said in a statement last month. “As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”
Cora was joined in declining to visit the White House by outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as pitcher David Price.
Martinez, whose family is of Cuban descent, presented a Red Sox team jersey to Trump at the White House ceremony.
The Red Sox are far from the first team to spark controversy in this regard.
The Golden State Warriors, who have won the NBA Finals both years that Trump has been in office, were disinvited from the White House in September 2017 after it became evident that most players would decline the invitation.
The Philadelphia Eagles were similarly disinvited after winning Super Bowl LII over the New England Patriots in 2018.
But the Patriots, including star quarterback Tom Brady, owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, have accepted White House invitations from Trump after winning Super Bowls LI and LIII.
There is one small problem with Martinez’s assertion that the White House has not divided the Red Sox locker room, and it has nothing to do with politics.
If not clubhouse dissent, what on earth is causing a team fresh off a championship, with most of its roster intact, to be so disappointing on the field?
The Red Sox are 29-28 this season and 10-9 since visiting the White House on May 9.
They trail the first-place Yankees by 8.5 games in the American League East, and sit in the middle of a clustered pack of five teams that are within one game of the second wild-card spot.
In baseball, the bat doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, so the Red Sox need to make a bipartisan commitment to playing better if they want to even think about visiting the White House again anytime soon.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.