WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday urged the Washington Capitals to come to the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship but said the winner of the National Basketball Association title would not be invited.
Trump issued his invitation and snub amid a divisive controversy that resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles, winners of the National Football League's Super Bowl this year, not making the trip to see the president that championship teams traditionally make.
Only a few members of the Eagles planned to attend the Tuesday event so Trump, who has lashed out at NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem before games, disinvited them. No Eagles took part in last season's kneeling demonstrations, which began as a way for black players to protest police treatment of minorities.
Trump's attacks on kneeling football players always draw applause at his rallies and he has urged fans to leave a game if they see a player kneeling. A new NFL policy announced last month allows dissenting players to stay in the locker room during the national anthem but Trump said “maybe they shouldn't be in the country.”
Washington's hockey team won the NHL championship on Thursday night with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights - its first title in the team's 44-year history.
“I think we'll have the Caps ... We'll see,” Trump told reporters at the White House, naming other championship teams that have previously visited him. “If they want to be here, it's the greatest place on Earth. I'm here. If they don't want to be here, I don't want them.”
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers currently are playing for the NBA's championship but Trump said on Friday the winner would not be coming to the White House. The Warriors won last year's title but Trump revoked their invitation after one of their star players, Stephen Curry, said he would vote against visiting Trump.
Curry and the Cavaliers' top player, LeBron James, already have said they would not want to make the White House trip this year.
“We're not going to invite either team,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Trump had “made it pretty clear he’s going to try to divide us ... for political gain.”
Trump earlier praised the Capitals in a post on Twitter, citing Alex Ovechkin, the team's Russian-born star, who last year started what he called a “social movement” called PutinTeam to support Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular - a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!”
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular - a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2018