Nationals closer Sean Doolittle says he won't join team's White House visit


The Washington Nationals will be missing at least one major contributor when visiting the House on Monday.

Closer Sean Doolittle told The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty on Friday that he does not plan to attend the team’s White House visit. Doolittle is the first member of the Nationals to publicly confirm he will not attend the event, currently scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET on Monday.

The White House announced the visit early in the morning on Friday, two days after the Nationals won their first-ever championship in seven games.

Dougherty additionally reported that while Doolittle is the first to shoot down visiting the White House, people close to the team said a “handful of players” are also wrestling with the decision.

Why Sean Doolittle will not visit Trump

In an interview with Dougherty, Doolittle cited Trump’s public conduct as the reason for his decision:

“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘s---hole countries,' ” Doolittle said, mimicking when Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s---hole countries” in a January 2018 meeting.

“At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it,” Doolittle continued. “I just can’t do it.”

Doolittle also reportedly cited Trump’s past violations of the Fair Housing Act, his treatment of the Central Park Five and his comments following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, as well as his mocking of a disabled reporter.

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle throws during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the baseball World Series against the Houston Astros Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle throws during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the baseball World Series against the Houston Astros Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When it comes to athletes skipping visits to Trump’s White House, the refrain against them is often that they should simply respect the office of the president. Doolittle’s response is simply that Trump hasn’t respected the office himself:

“People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president,” Doolittle said. “And I think over the course of his time in office he’s done a lot of things that maybe don’t respect the office.”

“The rhetoric, time and time again, has enabled those kind of behaviors,” Doolittle continued, referring to racism and white supremacy. “That never really went away, but it feels like now people with those beliefs, they maybe feel a little bit more empowered. They feel like they have a path, maybe. I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.”

Doolittle has been outspoken on social issues

Since well before he joined the Nationals, Doolittle has been one of the most outwardly liberal players in baseball.

The southpaw and his wife, Eireann Dolan, proactively supported Pride Nights and hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for Syrian refugees during his time with the Oakland Athletics, and have also penned an op-ed on veterans’ issues. Not much has changed since Doolittle and Dolan moved to the nation’s capital.

Doolittle hadn’t spoken out much against Trump specifically before Friday, but he did offer a direct repudiation of Trump’s “locker room talk” defense back in 2016 when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tapes rocked Trump’s presidential campaign.

A fan favorite, Doolittle was one of only two reliable options in the Nationals bullpen during the postseason, alongside right-hander Daniel Hudson. The 33-year-old struggled with injuries during the regular season on his way to an iffy 4.05 ERA, but he was a force in the postseason with a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings

Nationals fans booed Trump at World Series

Doolittle’s decision figures to be popular with a number of Nationals fans, judging from the Nationals Park crowd’s reaction when Trump was shown on the big screen during Game 5 of the World Series.

Trump was met with vociferous booing and a “Lock him up!” chant in parts of the stadium, with two banners calling for his impeachment popping up at the stadium. A campaign ad for Trump was also loudly booed at the Nationals’ Game 7 watch party.

Trump has had mixed results with World Series visits

It remains to be seen if any other Nationals decide to join Doolittle in not attending the White House event, and recent history indicates there will be more.

Several Red Sox players on the 2018 team, including Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and David Price skipped the White House visit. Manager Alex Cora also opted against the visit, citing his Puerto Rican heritage and the Trump administration’s handling of Puerto Rico’s recovery after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. Interestingly enough, Nationals manager Dave Martinez is also Puerto Rican.

Multiple key players on the 2017 Houston Astros did not visit Trump either, including Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Ken Giles, though none of them specifically cited Trump as the reason. Several players on the 2016 Chicago Cubs also didn’t make the trip, with one saying he was more interested in going to the “dinosaur museums.”

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