Williams said in 2005, his team wasn't invited to visit the White House until September, at which point, many of his players were already playing professionally.
In May 2009, then-President Barack Obama received Williams along with his championship-winning team in Washington. Obama, who picked UNC to win the championship that year, thanked them for saving his bracket.
Eight years later, Obama again picked the Tar Heels to win it all — though he will not be in the White House to thank them in person.
President Donald Trump did not publicly fill out a March Madness bracket.
Williams did not hide his politics during the tournament, openly criticizing House Bill 2 and Trump’s tweeting habits.
“Our president tweets out more bullshit than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Williams said in a March news conference.
This year's NCAA Tournament took place as North Carolina struggled to overturn the bill that led to an NCAA ban on championship sites in the state.
Tournament sites that were to be held in Greensboro were moved to Greenville, South Carolina, allowing the state to host NCAA Tournament events for the first time since 2002.
The connection between sports and politics is not unique to this season, said Matthew Andrews, a UNC history professor who examines the links between sports and American history and culture.
“You go to a sporting event and a war overseas is being celebrated or justified with flyovers and military appreciation dates,” Andrews said. “There’s always politics in the stadium. What just seems to rankle people is when it’s not their politics that make its way into the stadium.”
A refusal by a coach or entire team to visit the White House for political reasons would break precedent, Andrews said.
But players can often make an individual decision not to attend. After winning the Super Bowl in February, six New England Patriots players said they would sit out the team’s White House visit.
“You also have this resurgence of activism and outspokenness among athletes, both college and professional,” Andrews said.
If an invitation is extended to the Tar Heels, whether members of the team will go or not could be dependent on the political climate.
“Again, I don’t know that we’re going to get invited,” Williams said. “I really don’t. But I know one thing, we’re putting up a nice banner in the Smith Center that’s hard to get.”