When the NHL champion Washington Capitals visit the White House on Monday, they’ll do so without a few key members of their Stanley Cup-winning team.
Braden Holtby, the Caps’ star goalie, will not attend the event because he wishes “to stay true to my values,” he said Friday in a video on NHL.com.
“For me, it’s just a personal thing. I believe in what I believe in, and in order to stick to those values, I think I have to do what I feel is right,” Holtby said. “But that doesn’t make a difference on anyone else’s decision. We stick by every single teammate that we have and their decision.”
Holtby, who was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, said his support for the LGBTQ community was one factor in his decision not to attend.
“My family and myself, we believe in a world where humans are treated with respect regardless of your stature or what you’re born into,” he said.
A Capitals spokesman said the team, which won its first-ever title last June, will take part in a private tour and meet President Trump in the Oval Office. There will be no official ceremony or media availability while the team is at the White House.
Holtby is one of several Capitals players from last year’s team who have said they won’t attend the ceremonial visit at the White House – a traditional event for championship teams that has increasingly become politicized in recent years.
Devante Smith-Pelly, a major goal-scorer during Washington’s playoff run who now plays with the minor league Hershey Bears, said last June that he would not visit the White House because of Trump’s polarizing comments.
“The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” Smith-Pelly, who is black, told Postmedia. “Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with.”
Capitals forward Brett Connolly said last August that he also would not attend, according to SportsNet.
“For me, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Connolly said. “I think there’ll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right and wrong. And we’ll leave it at that.”
But plenty of Caps players have said they will attend, including the team’s star, playoff MVP Alex Ovechkin. The Russian-born player told the Washington Post he was “excited” to go to the White House.
Trump’s history with other sports champions
The Capitals’ triumph last June was the first championship for a Washington, DC, team in one of the four major sports leagues in more than 25 years.
After their title, Trump praised the team and Ovechkin in a tweet.
“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!”
Since taking office in early 2017 Trump has hosted events with the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Clemson and Alabama college football teams and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
But several championship teams have chosen not to attend these White House ceremonies – or have been disinvited by the President. Stephen Curry and several of his teammates on the Golden State Warriors said they would not attend in 2017, after which Trump said they were not welcome. Trump also canceled a planned visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles after some players said they would not attend.
Shortly after that decision, Trump told reporters he hoped to host the Capitals.
“I think we’ll have the Caps, I mean we’ll see. You know my attitude: 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,” he said.
Trump has not hosted a women’s championship sports team for a solo event at the White House. But a November 2017 event honoring multiple NCAA championship squads included a number of women’s sports teams, including the University of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team and the University of Utah’s co-ed ski team.
Individual players have skipped these honorary events in the past, as when Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas missed a 2012 visit while Barack Obama was president. He said at the time he decided not to attend because “the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.”