Just wait and accept an invitation to visit the White House after the next election, Christine Brennan counsels 2020 Olympians. The sports columnist for USA Today assumes America will have a new president by then so the Olympians should just wait and visit the White House then.
Showing herself to be just another member of the Trump-deranged left, Brennan lashes out against the president but it is at the expense of the athletes. For her own petty political preferences, she claims that the Olympians must avoid a meeting with President Trump. She claims she doesn’t want him to use the visit for his own political purposes, like in a campaign ad, for example.
The 2020 Summer Games will be held in Tokyo and typically a visit to the White House would occur in September or October. Christine Brennan admits her idea for the Olympians to skip a meeting with Trump has nothing to do with them and everything to do with him. She wants the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to meet with the Trump administration and agree to wait until after the 2020 presidential election. A visit in September or October would just be too close for her comfort with the election in November.
Brennan believes the thought of a visit with President Trump will be too distracting for the athletes, you see. She thinks to postpone a White House visit would protect the athletes from becoming “pawns in Trump’s cutthroat Washington chess match.
Trump’s record on White House visits by sports teams is by now well known. He has taken one of the most benign slices of Americana and turned it into a self-aggrandizing fiasco. He makes decisions about which teams can come to the White House and which ones can’t based on personal slights and preposterous misinformation. Athletes who should simply be allowed to celebrate their achievements become pawns in Trump’s cutthroat Washington chess match.
As the 2020 presidential election enters its final weeks, Trump would crave a visit by several hundred U.S. athletes. It would be the photo op of all photo ops: Trump surrounded on the White House South Lawn by celebrated Olympic athletes decked out in red, white and blue. There’s no telling how he might manipulate the moment for his purposes. One can imagine him using Olympians and Paralympians as props for a final election ad.
Her idea is that by postponing the visit, the athletes don’t have to be asked by reporters if they will accept a White House invitation or not. She thinks the athletes will have to worry about less pressure during the competition if they aren’t concerned about making a decision about meeting President Trump. This assumes, though, that all athletes are political activists and unable to just do their job – compete in Olympic competition and represent the United States. She claims it takes politics out of sports when in fact she is the one injecting politics into the discussion.
Projection much, Ms. Brennan? She uses the example of Megan Rapinoe and the women’s World Cup soccer champion team. Here’s the thing – Rapinoe brought that controversy into the reporting on the team, not President Trump. Megan Rapinoe is a political activist besides an athlete and she chose to use her platform and the attention she was receiving as a leader of that team to promote her own political agenda. She wanted to pick a public fight with the President of the United States because she doesn’t like him. She went out of her way to say she’s an Obama supporter, pining for the good old days of Obama’s divisive administration instead of that of the current administration. Brennan says the athletes are courageous for taking a political stand against Trump.
Some of these athletes have understandably and courageously spoken out against Trump, a man who has used racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic language, has bragged about sexually assaulting women and has mocked a disabled person, among his many insults and taunts.
Brennan claims that athletes deciding to skip a visit to the White House is something new and unique to the Trump White House. That’s not true at all. I can remember when politics began to really creep into these events back in the George W. Bush White House days. Athletes wanted to make statements against war or whatever the hot button issue of the day was and began to speak up publicly. It is more pronounced now in Trump’s America but it isn’t something new to blame Trump about. I’m old enough to remember talk of the raised fists of African-American athletes in 1968 when I was a kid. Trump didn’t start this.
She fantasizes about a scenario where athletes do interviews and compete in the Olympic Games while being asked about going to the White House. She imagines Trump would create turmoil by speaking out about athletes who decide to take a pass. Trump’s not one to hold his tongue so it’s probable he would speak up but then Brennan jumps the shark. She notes how it would be Trump “picking a fight with an Olympian” while overseas representing the United States. What? That is backward – the athlete, by giving an opinion, creates the problem, not the President responding to it. It used to be that American politics ended at the water’s edge but that was then and this is now. In Trump’s America, athletes like Megan Rapinoe and others think nothing of international bickering. They do it for publicity and personal gain.
But that was during the relative calm of the spring of 2018. The Summer Olympians’ White House visit would be in the midst of what likely is the most important election of our lifetime. Picture the athletes’ news conferences and mixed zone interviews at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, and at the Games themselves in July and August. Every athlete will be asked if he or she is planning to go to the White House. If not, why not? If so, why? Just as the topic reached a crescendo with the World Cup soccer team, so too would it threaten to become one of the overwhelming story lines of the Tokyo Olympics.
Those athletes who said they would not be going to the White House would likely draw Trump’s ire, ending up in one of his crazy tweetstorms. Can you imagine, the President of the United States picking a fight with an Olympian representing the country overseas at that moment? Of course we can. Trump did it in June with Rapinoe while the wildly popular U.S. team was in the process of winning the World Cup in France.
Christine Brennan ends her column by saying that ideally there will be a new president after the election and the Olympians can visit him or her. She clearly is anti-Trump and not above inserting politics into sports, something she complains about with Trump. The Olympic Games are still months away. This is getting out in front of what she predicts will happen. Trump won’t start it, though, and hopefully, the Olympians will rise above Brennan’s pettiness, too.