Neither of college basketball’s reigning national champions will visit the White House this year.
Two months after North Carolina men’s coach Roy Williams said a scheduling conflict would prevent the Tar Heels from accepting President Donald Trump’s invitation, South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley made a similar announcement Thursday night. The White House is holding Collegiate National Champions Day on Friday.
“We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow’s event, but we will not be able to attend,” Staley said in a a statement. “As I’ve been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”
When South Carolina defeated Mississippi State in last April’s national championship game, Staley was adamant that the Gamecocks would celebrate the achievement at the White House. The former three-time Olympic gold medalist and flag bearer at the 2004 Games told the Associated Press, “It’s what national champions do. We’ll go to the White House.”
Staley’s stance changed over the coming months when Trump invited championship teams from other sports to the White House but did not bestow that same honor on South Carolina. By last month, a frustrated Staley told the Associated Press she wasn’t even sure the Gamecocks would go to the White House even if they did receive an invitation.
“We won before those other teams won their championships,” Staley said. “I don’t know what else has to happen.”
When South Carolina’s invitation to Friday’s White House event finally did arrive earlier this month, Staley declined it. The Gamecocks defeated Clemson on Thursday night and have a practice scheduled for Friday in preparation for facing Wofford on Sunday.
The South Carolina women and North Carolina men aren’t the only two title winners not to celebrate their accomplishment with Trump at the White House. Trump rescinded an invitation to the Golden State Warriors this summer after many prominent players on the team publicly expressed misgivings about appearing with Trump given their clashing political ideologies.
Staley made no mention of politics nor hurt feelings in her statement. She simply said thanks but no thanks.
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