18 American Athletes Refused to visit Obama at the White House
“If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me”
President Obama honored the 1972 Miami Dolphins this week, the only NFL team to complete an undefeated season (sorry, Patriots fans).
However, three members of that team — Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, guard Bob Kuechenberg, and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez — declined the invite, citing political differences.
Kuechenberg: “I just don’t believe in this administration at all.”
Fernandez: “[M]y views are diametrically opposed to the president’s.”
Langer: “I don’t want to be in a room with those people and pretend I’m having a good time. I can’t do that.”
Yet those three are hardly the first athletes to snub a sitting president’s White House invite. And not everyone who has in the past spurned the commander-in-chief has done so for overtly political reasons.
Here, 15 other athletes who were White House no-shows:
The former Baltimore Ravens center won the Super Bowl earlier this year, but refused to meet President Obama because of the president’s support for Planned Parenthood.
“I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that,” Birk said. “I couldn’t endorse that in any way.”
In 2012, Thomas, a noted Tea Partier, posted a screed against the entire government on his Facebook page to explain his refusal to visit Washington with the rest of the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning Bruins.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” he wrote.
“This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country.”
Harrison twice declined White House invites after winning the Super Bowl, spurning both Obama and former President George W. Bush — not because of their politics, but because he felt the whole idea of inviting championship teams was hollow.
“This is how I feel — if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, he [Obama] would’ve invited Arizona if they had won.”
Manny, being Manny, didn’t show up to meet George W. Bush for no apparent reason other than that he just didn’t feel like it.
“I’m sorry [David Ortiz’s] running mate, Manny Ramirez, isn’t here,” Bush said. “I guess his grandmother died again. Just kidding. Tell Manny I didn’t mean it.”
A member of the 1996 Super Bowl-winning Packers, Chmura skipped a trip to meet President Clinton, citing a previously scheduled golf tournament. After the Lewinsky scandal broke, however, he said, “I knew it all along” adding, “It doesn’t really say much for society and the morals [Clinton] sets forth for our children.”
An American golfer known to proudly flaunt his Christian faith, Lehman declined to meet President Clinton, instead referring to him as a “draft-dodging baby killer.”
Yes, even Air Jordan has had a presidential no-show controversy. When Jordan opted not to meet President George H. W. Bush in 1991, a fuming Chicago Tribune story blared, “Snub By Jordan Undermines Team.”
Jordan later defended his decision, saying he wanted to spend time relaxing with his family back in North Carolina.
“As you know, my schedules have been very hectic,” he said. “You guys have seen me, I’ve been every which way, and because I choose to take my private three days somewhere no one can call me, it’s my prerogative.”
Bird and others from the 1984 Celtics turned down the chance to visit President Reagan for unspecified reasons, with Bird later quipping, “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.”
Albert Pujols, Tony LaRussa
Pujols and LaRussa, who both took part in Glenn Beck’s big Tea Party rally back in 2010, did not travel with the rest of the Cardinals to be congratulated by Obama in 2012. Neither cited politics to explain their no-shows, and both were already on their way out of St. Louis by then; LaRussa retired, and Pujols signed a mega-deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols also missed a meeting with President Bush in 2005 while on a humanitarian mission in his native Dominican Republic.
The oddball (former) manager and friend of the late-Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez skipped a team meeting with President Bush after the White Sox won the 2005 World Series. He did, however, appear on Chavez’s radio show after winning that title.
Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart
The handful of NASCAR standouts all turned down an invite from President Obama, citing “scheduling conflicts.”