As someone who’s worked in politics for most of his adult life and a huge baseball fan, I’ve always been interested in the cross between politics and sport — especially baseball. And the latest example of this can be seen in Alex Cora’s decision not to attend the White House ceremony honoring the Boston Red Sox for their victory in the 2018 World Series.
While we hear of players skipping the ceremony every now and then (no matter what party the POTUS currently belongs to), it’s very rare that a manager/head coach will actually skip the ceremony. But being a native of Puerto Rico, Cora has made it clear that it’s his opposition to President Trump’s response to the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico back in 2017 is one of the main reasons he won’t be making the trip to DC.
Cora has been receiving the most press attention regarding his decision, but he’s not the only member of the Red Sox organization who’s decided not to attend. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Eduardo Nunez, David Price, Christian Vazquez and Hector Velazquez have all publicly stated that they won’t be attending the ceremony. It’s very noteworthy that these players are all people of color while most of those who will make the trip to DC are white.
This hasn’t been lost in coverage of the ceremony as Boston based columnist Steve Buckley sent out a tweet saying “Alex Cora has confirmed newspaper report he will not make the trip to meet the president. So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.”
Pitcher David Price, who won’t be attending the ceremony, then sparked further controversy when he retweeted Buckley’s remarks and said he felt “like more than 38k should see this tweet.” Price later clarified that he was simply trying make sure more people saw the “insensitive tweet” and that he was only missing the ceremony because it was in the middle of the season and he wanted to focus on baseball.
For their part, most of the players and front office staff of the Boston Red Sox have been handling the situation well. Front office folks have stressed they made it clear this is a personal choice and even chartered two flights back to Boston after their series against the Orioles — one who would be staying the extra day to visit the White House and one for those who wouldn’t. Players have stressed that this hasn’t impacted the clubhouse atmosphere and that they remained focused on turning around their season after a rough start.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Boston based players receiving a lot of attention for skipping a White House visit after winning a championship. Tom Brady, who is known for being a vocal Republican, received criticism for saying a “family commitment” prevented him from going to the Obama White House back in 2015 even though he was spotted working out at Gillette Stadium the same day (though, in his defense, he also missed the Patriots’ visit to the Trump White House in 2017).
With that being said, there are plenty of people who are claiming that politics should stay out of sports. With how divisive the political scene is right now, I get it. But it also ignores how sports have always been intertwined with politics and often help bring about much needed progress in the world at large. Jackie Robinson integrating baseball during a time of segregation, South Africa being barred from the Olympics back in 1964 due to Apartheid, Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics marching for civil rights back in the ‘60’s, and so many other examples can be seen even before an age where social media and the 24 hour news cycle could propel every story.
Like it or not, athletes are humans and have become role models for children and the general public. If they feel passionately about an issue and can talk intelligently about it, they should most definitely be allowed to use their celebrity as a platform for raising public awareness. Alex Cora has done that while trying not to distract from Boston’s 2019 campaign to defend its title.