U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday urged the Washington Capitals to come to the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship but said the winner of the National Basketball Association title would not be invited.
Mr. Trump issued his invitation and snub amid a divisive controversy that resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles, winners of the National Football League’s Super Bowl this year, not making the trip that championship teams traditionally make.
Only a few members of the Eagles planned to attend the Tuesday event so Mr. Trump, who has lashed out at NFL players who kneel in protest during the U.S. anthem before games, disinvited the team. No Eagles took part in last season’s kneeling demonstrations, which began as a way for black players to protest police treatment of minorities.
Mr. Trump’s attacks on kneeling football players always draw applause at his rallies and he has urged fans to leave a game if they see a player kneeling. A new NFL policy announced last month allows dissenting players to stay in the locker room during the anthem but Mr. Trump said “maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”
Washington’s hockey team won the NHL championship on Thursday night with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. It’s the Capitals’ first title in the team’s 44-year history.
“I think we’ll have the Caps … we’ll see,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, naming other championship teams that have previously visited him. “If they want to be here, it’s the greatest place on Earth. I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them.”
Mr. Trump’s invitation comes despite Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly saying this week that he would skip any team trip to the White House because “the things that he [the President] spews are straight-up racist and sexist.”
Both the Golden State Warriors (who led the NBA final three games to none going into Friday night’s Game 4) and their opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have said the series winner would not go to the White House.
The Warriors won last year’s title but Mr. Trump revoked their invitation after one of their star players, Stephen Curry, said he would vote against a White House visit. Curry and the Cavaliers’ top player, LeBron James, already have said they would not want to make the trip this year.
“We’re not going to invite either team,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Mr. Trump had “made it pretty clear he’s going to try to divide us … for political gain.”
Mr. Trump earlier praised the Capitals in a post on Twitter, citing Alex Ovechkin, the team’s Russian-born star, who last year started what he called a “social movement” called PutinTeam to support Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Congratulations to the Washington Capitals on their GREAT play and winning the Stanley Cup Championship. Alex Ovechkin, the team captain, was spectacular – a true Superstar! D.C. is popping, in many ways. What a time!”