Donald Trump made headline news when he served the Champion Clemson Tiger football team food from various fast food establishments. The President, in the midst of a government shutdown, claimed that he had paid for the food himself.
What went underreported, however, was player attendance, and in particular, African American player attendance. In an exclusive story, The Root reports that only 15 black players visited the White House for the championship celebration.
Writer Michael Harriot spoke with 3 Clemson players who claimed few members of the team wanted to attend. Those that did attend may have done so to preserve playing time or scholarships. Of the 15 African American players that attended, “11 were freshmen or sophomores who had very little playing time during the season.”
One player told Harriot, “Not saying anything against the players who went, but if you look at who went—freshman and people fighting for playing time—you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Each of the players made the point that Clemson’s coaches did not order them to attend the celebration. The school says they are happy with the level of participation. The school’s associate president for strategic communications wrote, “We had 76 student-athletes (approximately two-thirds of the team) make the trip to D.C. For a variety of reasons, several players were not able to adjust schedules to make the trip.” For black players, the participation rate was closer to 25%.
“It wasn’t like we had a team meeting or anything,” another player told The Root. “Players were talking amongst each other but everybody was like: ‘I’m not going to that.’”
The players who chose not to attend also said they bear no ill will towards teammates that did. One player said, “This team is a family. You don’t always agree with your family on everything but still … that’s my brother, no matter what.”
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Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey based politics and technology writer. His work has been featured in psfk.com, foxsports.com and Pet Lifestyles Magazine. He enjoys sports, politics, technology and spending time at the shore with his family.