Boston Red Sox see racial divide over White House visit

US President Donald Trump (C) poses with the 2018 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 9, 2019
US President Donald Trump poses with the 2018 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox at the White House

US baseball champions the Boston Red Sox have visited the White House to celebrate their 2018 victory – without nearly all their non-white teammates.

At least 10 players and the World Series-winning team’s manager, all non-white, declined the president’s invitation.

In contrast, the dozen players who were due to attend were all white, except one who is Cuban-American.

US President Donald Trump celebrated the team on their “unstoppable” season.

But he did not comment at the White House on Thursday about the missing players.

“To all of the coaches and players of the Red Sox, congratulations on an incredible victory,” Mr Trump said.

Red Sox players Chris Sale and JD Martinez also made brief remarks, thanking the president for the invitation.

Mr Martinez called the trip a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Visiting the White House is a tradition for US championship teams. While certain players have opted out under past White House administrations, during Mr Trump’s presidency these visits – and those who decline – appear to have become more politicised.

US President Donald Trump (C) holds a Boston Redsox's jersey that was given to him as he welcomed the 2018 World Series Champions to the White House in Washington, DC, 9 May 2019
President Trump holds a Boston Redsox’s jersey that was given to him as he welcomed the team to the White House

Last year, Mr Trump cancelled the annual Super Bowl champions’ White House visit after most players said they did not want to attend.

In 2017, an invitation to the championship basketball team was cancelled for similar reasons.

The Red Sox, who won the World Series last year, told local media beforehand there was no ill will between the players who chose to meet Mr Trump and those who would skip the event.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex CoraBoston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was not at the White House

“We’re in a good place,” manager Alex Cora told WEEI radio.

Mr Cora is from Puerto Rico, and, in a rare move for a winning coach, said he would not be attending because it would not feel right to celebrate while people continued to struggle on the US island territory in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Mr Trump has been criticised for his handling of the US response to the hurricane, which devastated Puerto Rico and left nearly 3,000 dead.

Players Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Eduardo Nunez, Christian Vazquez, and Hector Velazquez also stayed away.

Most of the players did not cite specific reasons for opting out. But as one local sports columnist tweeted: “So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.”

The team’s owners also attended on Thursday. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy told the Boston Herald: “We fully support Alex [Cora] and respect his decision.”

Mr Kennedy added he was grateful for the Sox’s owners for fostering a team culture that encouraged “individual decision-making”.

Mitch Moreland, a white player who said he would attend, told the Washington Post that visiting the White House would be “very special”, but added that he respected his teammates’ choice.

Another player, Heath Hembree, said “it didn’t matter who was in the White House” – if there was a chance to meet the president, he would go.

A 2018 World Series Champions banner is unrolled before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays during pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park.Image copyrightREUTERS/BRIAN FLUHARTY/USA TODAY SPORTS
Image captionThe Red Sox were the 2018 World Series champions

All the discussion about the team’s apparent racial divide has also brought up the Red Sox’s troubled history.

The Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to end racial segregation in 1957.

The team’s former owner, Tom Yawkey, was an alleged racist who reportedly shouted slurs at black players, including legend Jackie Robinson.

Meanwhile, the White House welcomed the team’s visit with a spelling error that saw immediate outcry from fans.

On the official White House schedule of events, the Red Sox were erroneously referred to as the Red Socks. The mistake has since been corrected.

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