The Clemson Tigers stopped the Alabama Crimson Tide from winning back-to-back national championships (and five in eight years) in one of the great college football title games in history.
Four months later, instead of revisiting the classic game, Clemson has had to face questions of whether or not they would boycott the traditional White House visit.
Head coach Dabo Swinney and player Christian Wilkins had interesting comments on the situation.
In this politically-charged climate, Swinney smartly didn’t take the bait. Wilkins went a step further and said he’s tired of the politicization.
Clemson has one more celebration of last season’s national championship planned, and this one will be at the White House.
Coach Dabo Swinney told a group of Tigers fans at a booster event in Columbia, South Carolina, that the team will visit the White House on June 12. The story was first reported by Clemson Insider, and Swinney confirmed the date with ESPN.
Swinney said he isn’t sure whether all former Tigers players from last year’s team will be available for the Washington, D.C. trip because of NFL minicamps. But he said he’s not heard from any current players wishing to boycott the visit because of political differences with President Donald Trump.
“Everybody’s invited,” Swinney said. “I’m not sure if drafted guys can make it due to minicamps, but I’m sure most of the team will go. If someone doesn’t want to go, that’s no problem. But it’s a great opportunity and experience for the team.”
Clemson won its second national championship on Jan. 9th in a last-minute victory over Alabama. This will mark the Tigers’ second White House trip; the last came in 1981 under President Ronald Reagan.
While the visit with the president has been a traditional activity for championship teams, the heated political climate has increased scrutiny of the events in recent months, with several members of the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots choosing to skip the trip earlier this year.
“Guys have their views and opinions on certain things, and I wouldn’t have an issue [if someone skipped the visit],” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “But we’ve earned the right to go as a team. If someone feels strongly enough to go against it, just as a teammate and a brother, I’d support that.”
While the White House trip is a tradition, it was only three years ago that Florida State, fresh off a national title, skipped the event because of scheduling problems.
Swinney said Clemson’s visit had been on hold for several months as the school and the White House worked out scheduling, but the plan was always for Clemson to make the trip.
Within the locker room, Wilkins said there’d been little talk of any political boycotts. In fact, he said the topic of politics has become increasingly avoided among the players.
“I’m kind of tired of hearing it,” Wilkins said. “There’s a lot thrown at us. You can’t go anywhere without hearing something political. We do talk about certain stuff here and there, just in the locker room. But overall, I’m kind of tired of it.”
Clemson accomplished a remarkable feat. Winning a championship and getting invited to the White House is a rare honor. It would be a shame for politics to get in the way of that achievement.