Tomase: Dear Red Sox, taking a stand on White House visit shouldn't be left to minority players

John Tomase
January 16, 2019 - 1:08 pm

The Red Sox will visit the White House on Feb. 15, CEO Sam Kennedy told Dale & Keefe on Wednesday, and he used the language of decorum and norms to describe a president who respects neither.

"This is an honor and a privilege to be invited to the White House," Kennedy told D&K. "We've tried not to make it a political statement. We don't see it as such. We see it as an honor to be invited."

On this much we can agree: opinions on President Trump transcend politics. Criticizing him isn't about his policies, which are mostly ineffectual, thank god. It's about decency, and the complete and utter lack of it he exhibits. Without decency, it's hard to see how the invite qualifies as any great privilege.

But as is the case with most things Trump, it will inevitably be the responsibility of African-American players like Mookie Betts or David Price or Jackie Bradley to articulate why accepting an honor from him is no honor at all.

That's how the NFL protests unfolded, with the players taking a knee almost universally black and those remaining silent almost universally white. It perfectly illustrates the racial divisions that Trump has so relentlessly exploited and inflamed since he first descended that Trump Tower escalator like a malevolent orange demon in 2016.

White folks demur because it's unspoken that Trump has their backs. His crude appeals to white grievance landed him in the White House (with an expert pivot on the 6-4-3 from Russia), and white complicity might keep him there. It's why whites consider Islamic terrorists an existential threat but are relatively indifferent to mass shooters -- deep down we fundamentally believe the latter aren't targeting us.

Like most teams, the Red Sox view themselves as family. Before they set foot on the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they should ask themselves if this is any way to treat family:

-- If Betts' or Price's or Bradley's grandparents tried to rent an apartment from Trump in the 1970s, they would've been told sorry, no vacancy.

-- If the same three were assaulted during a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, they would've been reminded there were fine people on both sides.

-- If Trump gets his wall on the southern border, it will send a message to players like Mexican pitcher Hector Velazquez that his people -- already decried as rapists, murderers, human traffickers, and drug dealers -- aren't welcome here.

-- The next time manager Alex Cora or catcher Christian Vazquez visits their native Puerto Rico, perhaps they'll ponder Trump's insistence that the island's staggering death toll in the wake of Hurricane Maria was politically motivated "fake news," and that the woeful response to the natural disaster owed to the laziness of the Puerto Rican leadership and not the indifference of Trump's administration.

-- Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez grew up in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, Trump's original bleep-hole country. Would anyone doubt that he harbors similar excremental sentiments about their homeland, or at least the parts of it he's not interested in razing for a hotel?

-- As for Venezuelans Eduardo Rodriguez and Sandy Leon, Trump uses their country to insult black politicians like gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, saying they would turn Georgia and Florida, respectively, into that troubled South American country. It's a racist twofer!

Notice that none of the above involves politics or policy. Each example instead illustrates not only the president's appalling lack of character, but his fundamental belief that non-whites lack dignity. This is hardly shocking coming from the lone Republican who's been unable to muster even token outrage at openly racist Iowa congressman Steve King over the last couple of days.

It's unclear which Red Sox players will and won't attend. Attendance isn't mandatory, but Cora will be there, along with Kennedy and ownership. Kennedy told D&K a lingering government shutdown could alter their plans.

What's unfortunate is questions about the White House will inevitably be directed at the team's black players, as if they're the only ones who could be offended by Trump's boorishness. They're also the most likely to decline the invitation. It would be refreshing if a couple of their white teammates ditched the pretense of honor and privilege and took a stand:

"We're staying home, because this is no way to treat family."