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The Daily Tar Heel

White House visit uncertain for championship team, Williams says

President Donald Trump has not yet invited UNC's men's basketball team to visit the White House.

North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams shouts out defensive instructions to the team during the national championship game.

North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams shouts out defensive instructions to the team during the national championship game.

The Tar Heels men's basketball team is still waiting on an invitation to the White House after winning the NCAA National Championship.

In a post game news conference UNC men's basketball head coach Roy Williams said he wasn't sure if the championship team would visit the White House — or whether they would receive an invitation at all.

“The office of the presidency of the United States is the most fantastic place you can be," Williams said. “But let me think on it."

Steve Kirschner, senior associate athletic director for communications, also had little to say on the matter.

“We don’t have any details on any invitation or trip at this point,” Kirschner said in an email.

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.”

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