There were no Philadelphia Eagles at the White House last week, as everyone not living under a rock knows by now.
And even before the NBA Finals concluded, President Trump said he would not be extending an invite to the league’s champion. However, that was probably a moot point since both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors said they didn’t want to go to the White House anyway.
Our goal here in bringing up this suddenly thorny issue is not to pick sides or explore the divisive politics involved.
We just want to make a few simple points about the practice of championship sports teams visiting the president’s Pennsylvania Avenue residence.
First, and more people should be saying it loudly, these visits are unnecessary and have become a tired, old habit.
After all, don’t we do enough to celebrate our athletes, whose achievements while significant pale in comparison to the efforts of many others in our society who work hard with little notice?
Take, for instance, the world champion Eagles, who were honored with a huge parade in their home city and feted in a variety of other ways for essentially weeks.
Would a White House visit make their first Super Bowl title any sweeter?
And although some would disagree, a few big Eagles fans we spoke with last week could care less about the team not getting the presidential treatment.
We also take issue with those who have pointed out the White House trip is a tradition for champions.
These glorified photo-ops have become annual rites only since the 1980s, according to a Washington Post story from earlier this year.
It wasn’t until 1980 that a Super Bowl champ, the Pittsburgh Steelers, visited the president (Carter).
And it was the early 1990s before the first NHL champion stopped by, which incidentally was another Pittsburgh team, the Penguins.
Tradition, to us, means more than a few decades.
Our guess is we can dump these trite trips and, in short order, virtually no one would miss them or recall anything about them.
The teams could instead use the day to do something more constructive, as the NBA’s Warriors did after their previous title. Instead of seeing the Oval Office, they toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a group of children.
And the White House could certainly find many other worthy folks to honor if it remained intent on doing such things.
Why not pick a day to honor the country’s top students, such as elite National Merit scholars?
There might be another day to celebrate first responders who saved lives, or community volunteers, or local philanthropists.
Many folks out there are doing great things.
They just aren’t household names.
Bringing them to the White House in place of millionaire athletes or celebrities would be a refreshing change and a more worthwhile experience for everyone involved.
No matter the president or party in power, we say it’s high time to end all team visits. (Olympians excluded, of course.)
These outings benefit very few and have come to symbolize our sports-crazed society.
Yes, athletic achievements should be acknowledged and always will be.
But giving someone else the stage for a few moments is only fair.
— Times Leader