CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — Skipping what has become a tradition among winning college sports teams, the University of Virginia Cavaliers said Friday that the NCAA men’s basketball champions will not pay a visit to the White House hosted by President Donald Trump. The Cavaliers won the title April 8 with an 85-77 overtime win over Texas Tech in Minneapolis. It was the first NCAA title for the Cavaliers.
“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,” head coach Tony Bennett said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Four members of the championship UVA team have declared early for the 2019 NBA draft, juniors Mamadi Diakite, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome, as well as sophomore De’Andre Hunter, said 247sports.com.
The White House has not yet commented on the team’s decision.
A UVA alumna, Lacey Kohlmoos, created a petition earlier this month urging the team to boycott a Trump invitation because of his incendiary racial comments. To date it has receive 15,159 signatures.
After white supremacists marched in Charlottesville in August 2017, and clashed with protesters, which left a woman dead when she was run down by a car, Trump’s remarks about the violence stoked the controversy. The president said that many of the people defending the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue slated for removal were unfairly maligned. “You had many people in that group other than white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” he said.
Trump said there were “some very fine people” on both sides of the protests.
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“Leaders in Charlottesville have made great efforts to do the opposite of Trump and stand against racism,” Kohlmoos wrote. …”Now it’s time for the Cavaliers to stand strong, too. By accepting a White House invitation, the team would be condoning the president’s reprehensible and divisive behavior, which is unacceptable.”
The Baylor women’s basketball team, which won the national title this year, announced Wednesday that its players will attend a White House ceremony on Monday that will include Trump. The event will be the first time Trump has hosted a women’s championship team for a solo reception, CNN reports.