To make things perfectly clear, the “tradition” of professional sports champions visiting the White House has always been a glorified photo op.
After all, at the end of the day, professional sports ultimately amounts to entertainment.
Yes, it can be a fascinating amalgam of competition, team-building, fandom and even economics. But sports ultimately only function when they’re entertaining the fans.
Sports have no bearing on the “real” world and that’s a distinction worth mentioning every time fans get in a tizzy over which players are or are not visiting the White House.
Fan outcry over White House visits has only gotten more shrill during the Trump presidency. To be fair, the political landscape has been particularly charged in the last decade or so, but that shouldn’t obfuscate the fact that sports team visits to the White House should be apolitical exercises.
Maddeningly, modern athletes have insisted on using this photo op to send some sort of political message.
With politics being as ugly and pervasive as they are for many Americans, people like Covington and teams like Clemson should be lauded.
There’s nothing inherently divisive about visiting the White House. It doesn’t mean you endorse every last one of a president’s ideological viewpoints. That’s reading way too much into a photo op.
It’s much more refreshing to see athletes treat the event like the superfluous diversion it is and sow some levity and fun into something as dreary and weighty as politics.
Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez seems to fall into that latter category of pro athletes.
— NESN (@NESN) February 17, 2019
“I believe it’s an honor to go,” Martinez said Sunday during a news conference, according to NESN. “That’s our capital, that’s the White House. Not a lot of people get to go there. I’m excited about it.”
Good for Martinez. In that scant 26-second clip, he’s already shown more maturity than many professional athletes today.
I can honestly say I have no idea if Martinez is a Democrat or a Republican. Frankly, I don’t care. I care if he can continue to be the slugger the Red Sox desperately need to help anchor their lineup.
I also don’t know about how many his ideological viewpoints overlap with Trump’s. I prefer it that way. It shouldn’t feel this novel to have a professional athlete whose politics are not his defining trait.
Now, if only Martinez can work his magic on some of his teammates.
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