Red Sox players to nearly split along racial lines for White House visit

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To start, the manager Alex Cora, who is Puerto Rican, decided to skip. Others who declined the invitation included 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts, star pitcher David Price, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Hector Velazquez, Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, according to the Boston Globe. They are all players of color.
“Alex Cora has confirmed newspaper report he will not make the trip to meet the president. So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going,” Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley tweeted earlier this week.
Price retweeted it, adding that more than Buckley’s 38,000 followers “should see this tweet.”

The split-attendance on Thursday only underscores the President’s fraught history with champion athletes.

Some have publicly shared their reasons for declining the invitation, some have not.

Trump has long been a racial lightning rod, from his tepid response to the violence of white nationalists to his stark anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout his time in office and campaigning.

Earlier this week, he welcomed golfer Tiger Woods to the White House to bestow him with the Medal of Freedom. Woods and Trump have a long history together, both professionally and personally.

But he has frequently railed against African-American NFL players who have protested police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem. Players have said the protests, which began in 2016, are intended to draw attention to what they see as systemic bias against people of color.

Other professional athletes have skipped out on invitations by Trump to visit the White House to celebrate recent wins, including the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby following the team’s 2018 Stanley Cup win and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins after the team won the Super Bowl in 2018.

For Cora, a Caguas, Puerto Rico, native, it’s the administration’s widely-criticized response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, which left nearly 3,000 people dead in 2017. Cora said he did not “feel comfortable” celebrating at the White House.

“Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting. Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria struck,” Cora told Puerto Rican Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Día.

“Even though the United States Government has helped, there’s still a long road ahead and that is OUR reality. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence (from the White House) is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House,” Cora said.

Cora revealed last year that during contract negotiations with the Red Sox in 2017, he requested as part of his deal a plane full of supplies to help people that were struggling in the wake of the storm. In January 2018, he traveled to his hometown with several Boston personalities to personally deliver the supplies, which included diapers, batteries, funds and new baseball equipment for the neighborhood children.
Cora appeared to capture the President’s attention — without responding to him directly, Trump defended his Puerto Rico response in a Monday tweet, citing misleading statistics about aid.

Asked Wednesday about Cora’s absence, Trump again stated a misleading number.

“Puerto Rico, just so you understand, we gave Puerto Rico $91 million,” Trump said, adding that that was the “largest amount of money given to any state” for disaster relief.

More than half of that $91 billion is based on the White House’s estimates for costs FEMA could incur in years to come.

The aid totals $41 billion in announced funding from multiple agencies, which has mostly not been spent yet, according to The Washington Post.

The additional $50 billion, administration officials told the Post, “(refers) to an internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. The estimate was described as a high-end estimate subject to change year by year.”

CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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