With apologies to poet Robert Frost, two roads diverged toward the White House, and athletes of color increasingly are choosing the one less traveled by.
Even if you are only a casual observer of sports news, you likely know that Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided to skip the team’s recent trip to the White House last week. Cora, who is from Puerto Rico, said he didn’t feel comfortable going because the U.S. territory is “still struggling” and people there are without “basic needs, others without electricity, and many houses and schools are still in poor condition.” President Donald Trump insists that Puerto Rico has received more money than the hurricane-devastated Texas and Florida combined — $91 billion. Except that’s not really true. The island has received $51 billion and still needs massive aid for food and infrastructure. Many wonder if the president would have a different response if Puerto Ricans were white, not brown, Americans.
Perhaps not, but at this juncture, a trip to the White House represents disrespect for many non-white athletes. Several Red Sox players, including Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Hector Velazquez and David Price — all men of color — also decided not to go to the White House. David Price retweeted local sports columnist Steve Buckley’s observation,“It’s the white Sox who’ll be going.”They are the latest athletes of color who’ve skipped the team White House visit — notably, superstar basketball players Steph Curry of The Golden State Warriors and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Also, the mostly black Clemson football players stayed away, telling TheRoot.com that “racism” and the president’s “divisive politics” turned them off. President Trump responded to all of these rejections with nasty tweets denigrating the players’ skill or intellect. Can you blame them for refusing the invitation?
But President Trump never had to worry about golfer Tiger Woods rejecting his invite. Days before the Red Sox visit, Woods was in the Rose Garden, fresh from his Masters Tournament victory, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The president praised his “incredible success and comeback in sports (Golf) and more importantly Life.” It’s not surprising that the president enthusiastically lauded this athlete of color. They are golf partners, and Woods designed a golf course in Dubai for the Trump Organization. To be clear, Tiger Woods is a master golfer, an outstanding athlete, and his recent win was stunning. All praises for his athleticism are appropriate. (I’m not forgetting the other things in his past that cast a shadow, but that is a story for another day). It rankles me that Woods steadfastly ignores the president’s racial rants. When asked to respond, he says he respects the office of the presidency. I wish he’d tell the current occupant to do the same. Tiger Wood’s action would feel like racial betrayal except he, in the words of the late poet Maya Angelou, told us “who he was the first time.” The self-described “Cablinasian” has gone out of his way not to claim his racial heritages. That decision is certainly his to make, but I’m sick to death of people like him allowing themselves to be used as props in a racist monologue, and as shields to counter the movement against intolerance.
I stand with those who’ve decided not to be used in that way.
Correction: A previous version of this piece incorrectly cited the number of aid dollars received by Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida as millions instead of billions. Texas and Florida received a combined amount of $91 billion in aid and Puerto Rico received $51 billion.