‘It’s the Least Political Thing a President Does’

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In the summer of 2005, the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team visited the White House to celebrate a national championship with President George W. Bush. Worried the players might sink into the South Lawn, a staffer told them not to wear high heels, so instead many wore flip-flops. A photo of the players with Bush—their footwear visible—was released, and scandal ensued. “It mortified me,” said one of the players’ mothers, aghast at the impropriety. NBC News called the incident a “flip-flop kerfuffle.”

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles were scheduled to visit the White House on Tuesday but were abruptly disinvited by President Donald Trump late Monday night after he learned the delegation of players would be considerably skimpier than expected. “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” blared an official White House statement.

Oh, for the halcyon days of the flip-flop kerfuffle.

The Eagles, of course, are just the latest championship team to cross swords with the president over a White House invitation, a once feel-good tradition dating back nearly a century that has, over the past 16 months, become a handy test of allegiance in the nation’s culture wars. Last year, several New England Patriots released a video announcing their reasons for passing on Trump’s party (Tom Brady, a Trump favorite, was a late scratch, too). The Golden State Warriors, whose coach Steve Kerr has been one of the president’s loudest critics, never even got an invite. The NCAA champion South Carolina women’s basketball team declined to visit, as did the North Carolina men. Seemingly every American championship team now gets the loaded question: Will it show up at Trump’s White House?

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