Last January, the World Champion Chicago Cubs visited the White House. It was a bit unorthodox, as World Series winners typically wait until the following summer and make the trip during a road series in Washington or Baltimore.
They did it, however, because when the Cubs won the Series, then-President Obama asked the Cubs to visit before he left office. He’s a White Sox fan but a Chicago guy and said he was rooting for the Cubs. So the Cubs visited.
Today they’re back again. It’s been characterized as an “informal” visit. No suits and ties or big official photo-ops in front of the White House. It was even unclear until this afternoon if they’d even meet with President Trump. The visit was inspired in part by Maddon’s longtime friend, U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, and partially by the Ricketts family’s ties to the Trump administration. The Ricketts are significant Republican donors and one of the Cubs’ co-owners, Todd Ricketts, is Trump’s deputy commerce secretary.
So to the White House the Cubs went. At least some of them. Many decided not to go for a number of reasons, ranging from “no-comment” to game preparation considerations (the visit just happened, much later in the day than usual White House visits). At least one vocal Trump supporter, Jake Arrieta, did not go. Another, John Lackey, did go, but declined to give any comment on it, expressing concern that his quote would be used for political purposes. I’ve yet to see anyone say they weren’t going specifically because they do not support Trump, though I presume some felt that way. The man isn’t exactly popular at the moment.
Nevertheless, the political overtones of all of this are hard to ignore. The Cubs already had their official White House visit, so a second one has to mean something, right? Teams don’t just get invited to the White House whenever they happen to be passing through town. Some of this is probably about the Trump administration smarting a bit over Obama swooping in for that visit in January. Some of it is probably about the Ricketts family either wanting to send the team for a non-Obama visit, to do a favor for Trump or some combination of those things.
Joe Maddon was defensive about it all yesterday, saying it wasn’t political. Trump obviously didn’t hear him as he used the time when the Cubs were standing next to him for photos to take questions about the health care legislation and slag on Obamacare:
Maybe Maddon and the Cubs wanted to keep out of politics, but politics makes no such agreement with anyone.