In a statement shared to Twitter on Friday, the Cavaliers’ head coach Tony Bennett said his side “would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”
"We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House. With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.” – Tony Bennett
— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) April 26, 2019
Bennett claimed the decision taken by the Cavaliers, who ran out 85-77 winners against Texas Tech Red Raiders on Apr. 9, was down to logistics.
“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House,” he said. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together.”
But celebrating national sports wins at the White House has become a contentious issue during the Trump administration, with some professional and college players and sides opting out in protest at the government’s policies.
Trump withdrew an invite to the Golden State Warriors following its 2017 NBA championship win after star point guard Stephen Curry explained why he didn’t want his teammates celebrating with the president.
Stephen Curry doesn't hold back on whether he'll vote to visit White House. pic.twitter.com/n2PBAtYQdA
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) September 22, 2017
The commander-in-chief also preemptively disinvited the winners of the 2018 NBA finals before the game between eventual-champions Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers had taken place after players echoed that stance.
Also in 2018, Trump disinvited the NFL Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles after several players indicated they would skip the occasion.
It’s not clear if the White House had actually extended an official invitation to the Virginia team, although Baylor University’s women’s basketball side has announced it will celebrate its national championship with Trump on Monday.
Trump has not commented on the Virginia Cavaliers’ announcement, which followed his heavily-criticized doubling down on the claim that there were “very fine people on both sides” during the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlotteville, the same city in which the University of Virginia’s campus is located.
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