Washington Nationals Pitcher Joins Long Line of Champion Athletes Turning Down White House Visit

When the Washington Nationals visit the White House on Monday, they will be without at least one player -- pitcher Sean Doolittle.

Doolittle, who was traded to the Nationals from the Oakland Athletics in 2017, has regularly spoken out regarding his personal and political beliefs, which are often in direct opposition to the administration of President Donald Trump.

Champion teams paying a visit to the White House is a tradition that dates back to the late-1800's, but Doolittle opted to skip the experience. Speaking to The Washington Post, the Nationals reliever said he "just can't do it" even though he wants to be there to celebrate with his teammates.

"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. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'sh--hole countries,'" Doolittle told the Post.

The 33-year-old has long lent his support to the right to unionize, inclusion of the LGBTQ community and called for better support for veterans with mental health issues. Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan, have hosted Thanksgiving for Syrian refugees and the pitcher openly condemned white nationalism after a rally in Charlotteville, Virginia where activist Heather Heyer was killed.

"It's 2017. Actual Nazis just marched on #Charlottesville. We have to come together & drive this hatred & domestic terrorism from our country," Doolittle wrote on Twitter at the time.

"While it's important to protect free speech, we have a patriotic obligation to condemn racism and domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The C'Ville I knew from my time at @UVA is a diverse and accepting community. It's no place for Nazis," he continued in several tweets. "People say 'if we don't give them attention they'll go away.' Maybe. But if we don't condemn this evil, it might continue to spread."

It's 2017. Actual Nazis just marched on #Charlottesville. We have to come together & drive this hatred & domestic terrorism from our country

— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017

In speaking to the Post, Doolittle stated that the Nationals have respected his decision and that he is okay that his teammates will visit Trump next week.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle told the newspaper. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked, or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Sean Doolittle
Sean Doolittle #63 of the Washington Nationals during game four of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Rob Carr/Getty

Doolittle joins a list of athletes and even entire teams who have forgone visits to the White House in the past three years.

This summer, the U.S. Women's Soccer Team and star midfielder Megan Rapinoe made headlines when a video of Rapinoe went viral. In the video, a reporter asked Rapinoe if she would visit the White House if the team won the World Cup, to which the soccer star responded I'm "not going to the f*****g White House" and that she doubted Trump would invite them.

Shortly after the clip gained attention, the president weighed in on Rapinoe's comments, posting to Twitter that she should "win before she talks."

The U.S. Women's Team eventually defeated the Netherlands 2-0 to take the World Cup title and, as promised, Rapinoe and the team skipped the White House visit.

The Virginia Cavaliers also declined an invitation to visit the White House following their 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball title. At the time, Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett said it would be too difficult to get the team back together as several players were "pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA."

Members of the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Capitals, the New England Patriots and the Clemson Tigers have all skipped out on visits. In 2018, the Golden State Warriors also declined an invitation to visit with Trump.

Instead, the Warriors traveled to Washington D.C. to visit with former President Barack Obama.

However, Trump isn't the only president that saw athletes or entire teams skip the traditional White House visit. In 1991, the New York Giants didn't visit then-President George H.W. Bush after their win in Super Bowl XXV and President Bill Clinton never invited the Denver Broncos after their championship win in 1999.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, NBA legend Michael Jordan and Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez are among athletes to have skipped White House visits. Brady missed visits with both Obama and Trump, while Jordan skipped out on George H.W. Bush in 1991 to instead play golf in South Carolina. Ramirez also missed a visit with President George W. Bush in 2004 and 2007.

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