North Carolina's 2017 national championship men's basketball team will not visit the White House, a team spokesman said on Saturday, though the Tar Heels were invited to visit, as is customary for college men's basketball and football national championships.
Whether UNC would visit President Donald Trump's White House, if the Tar Heels won, became a topic of interest during the Final Four, as Trump was still new to the office. Before the Tar Heels’ national champioship victory against Gonzaga, coach Roy Williams said he'd answer whether UNC would visit after the championship game, if his team won.
After the Tar Heels won, though, Williams offered no more clarity.
“We won in '05; we never got invited,” he said then, in early April. “I don't know if we're going to get invited this time. That's a bad way to put it. They invited us in September (2005) when they were doing a lot of teams.
“Well, all my team were already at the NBA training camp and two of them in Europe. So we didn't go in '05. And we did go in '09. But, you know, the office of the presidency of the United States is the most fantastic place you can be. But let me think on it.”
Steve Kirschner, the UNC men's basketball team spokesman, said the Trump White House did invite UNC, but that the university and the White House couldn't agree on a date.
“We couldn't find a date that worked for both parties,” he said. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn't work out that date, we couldn't work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”
Kirschner added that UNC's players “were fine with going.”
Athletes’ willingness to go to the White House has been the part of the national political dialogue since Trump took office in January. Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors All-Star guard, has said since the Warriors won the NBA championship that he doesn't want to go to the White House. One of his teammates, Kevin Durant, has said the same.
On Saturday morning, the president responded to Curry's desire not to visit the White House. In a post on Twitter, the president wrote, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
LeBron James, whose Cleveland Cavaliers lost to Curry's Warriors in the NBA Finals, then wrote a Twitter post of his own, in which James called Trump “a bum.” Several professional athletes and coaches, especially in the NBA, have spoken out against the president, especially after he referred to any athlete who protests during the national anthem as a “son of a b----.”
Earlier in March, after a UNC victory during the ACC tournament, Williams himself spoke out about the president’s Twitter habits. At the time, Williams was answering a question about the advantages of playing the tournament in New York City, and Williams’ answer led him to social media — and particulary the president’s use of it.
“It used to be much more so than I think it is now,” he said then. “Now everybody's has got social media, and we don't need the New York Times to find out what in the dickens is going on in the country. You know, our president tweets out more bulls--- than anybody I've ever seen. We've got social media.”