Given everything that has occurred politically since 2018 began, it’s almost easy to forget that the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games managed to take place somewhere between Stormy Daniels breaking her silence and the FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s personal effects.
After the Philadelphia Eagles claimed the Super Bowl title in early February, a large swath of players, including the team’s owner, denounced Trump and his divisive rhetoric and refused their own visit. Olympic ceremonies began almost immediately thereafter, sparking speculation about whether the Olympians and Paralympians would make their regularly scheduled appearance.
Since Friday, April 26th is the day set aside for the athletes, we now have our answer, and it doesn’t reflect well for Trump – hardly any of the athletes plan to show, according to a report in USA Today Sports.
Lindsey Vonn, Gus Kenworthy, Adam Rippon, Chloe Kim, Nathan Chen and almost the entire figure skating team are just a few of the high-profile athletes who have outright rejected the offer.
In some cases, we already knew this. Both Rippon and Kenworthy, two of the first openly gay Olympians in history, made it clear prior to the opening ceremonies that the current administration’s hostility toward LGBTQ Americans (particularly the “T”, or trans members) was a nonstarter in terms of a visit. Both individuals had their own Twitter feuds with the Vice President.
Rippon is one of the few with a “legitimate” excuse, since his stardom skyrocketed during the games and he is now juggling a schedule composed of rehearsals for “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes,” as well as across-country media tour and a 22-city “Stars on Ice” skating tour with a show in Pittsburgh that conflicts with the meeting.
Rippon made it clear, though, that he is protesting the visit, telling a recent interviewer:
“I was not going or planning on going [to the White House] anyway. I have been invited to so many incredible things, to the Human Rights Campaign dinner, the GLAAD Media Awards. I was so honored and so excited to go to those, more so than I would be to go to the White House. I feel like it was more important for me to go to those events because it’s a cause that I really believe in, it’s a message that I believe in. It’s important for me to align myself with those people who have the same ideals that I have.”
Rippon’s disappointment in not being able to formally protest was palpable as he added:
“Even getting a tweet at the Olympics is almost disingenuous. It’s not sincere: ‘I’m with you and I’m with all the athletes.’ He was just trying to save face and trying to put the whole thing to rest. But are you with me when I go back home? Are you with me when I want to get married? No.”
If this list feels cherrypicked to appear longer than it is, take former USOC spokesman Mike Moran who attended every White House visit from 1980-2002. Even he is shocked by this staggering low turnout.
“What’s remarkable is the number of athletes who have spoken out about not visiting the White House. It’s very much the same thing that’s going on with professional teams: athletes who feel very aggressive about making their comments known about the White House visit,” he said in a phone interview. “I don’t remember any time when I was with the USOC that an athlete spoke out about not wanting to go to the White House.”
The athletes brought glory and honor back with them from Pyeongchang, and now they’re restoring honor to America with this brave boycott. Kudos to them for staying true to their word and, to quote Trump’s newest BFF Kanye West, for “standing their ground.”