AP Photo/Elise Amendola
New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, right, is among the Super Bowl winners who've said they won't go to the White House to meet President Donald Trump.
Mitch Albom questions the ancient tradition of championship sports teams visiting the White House for a photo op with the president.
Actually, it's not ancient at all, says the Detroit Free Press
's Albom in a column
published in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune—
in its present form it dates back only to the era of Ronald Reagan. Some athletes think it's a big deal to go, others that it's a big deal to stay away. "Perhaps," writes Albom, "it's better to drop this tradition altogether."
Amen to that. My beef is with the way Albom looks around for someone responsible for the quarrelsome state of this silly ritual, and lays blame where some sportswriters always lay it—on the athletes themselves.
Not every member of the NFL championship team, the New England Patriots, plans to visit President Trump. A few have let it be known they intend to stay far away.
"It is surely their right to do so as Americans," Albom allows. "It is also rude."
Albom is right on both counts. It is rude! But what's wrong with being rude if you have something to say and no one will listen otherwise?
But Albom sees staying away as empty posturing. Whereas, "the visit may give you a rare chance to express your views to the leader himself."
Your lips to Trump's ear—it could make such a difference! While not going, and telling the world why—for instance, "I don't feel welcome in that house," said Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount
—is a sure way to be completely ignored.
Maybe not ignored exactly—I googled "LeGarrette Blount" and "Trump" and got 381,000 results—but something as unpleasant: being dealt with in snippy language by a high-minded commentator of all things sporting who's thought harder and deeper about patriotism and civic responsibility than you have, apparently.
"I'm guessing half the athletes who have visited the White House over the years didn't vote for the man occupying it," writes Albom. "So what? You can respect the office. The tradition. The reverence of our flawed but still-beautiful democratic system."
Or you can stay home and say why.