While manager Alex Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, and about a dozen players of color skipped a visit honoring the World Series champion Boston Red Sox at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump avoided discussing the controversy.
“Frankly, they were unstoppable. I watched,” said Trump, skipping any mention of Cora or the absent players by name at the ceremony that lasted about 10 minutes.
A fan of the New York Yankees, Trump added, “In the playoffs, you bested your archrivals, the Yankees. I think I’ll do a recount on this one. But you did! You beat them.”
Earlier in the day asked by a reporter about the controversy, Trump said, “I like the Red Sox.”
He also defended his administration’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which was a primary reason for Cora not to attend. “We gave Puerto Rico $91 billion for the hurricane,” Trump said. “The people of Puerto Rico should really like President Trump.”
USA Today cited PolitiFact, which stated Congress has allocated $41 billion in aid to the island, of which only $11 billion has been spent thus far.
That wasn’t the only factual error made Thursday. The White House initially spelled the team nickname incorrectly, calling the Red Sox the “Red Socks.”
It apparently didn’t matter to the representatives in attendance.
Without Cora, the Red Sox were led by three white executives — owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Sam Kennedy and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Among the absent players were Mookie Betts, the reigning American League MVP, and star pitcher David Price, who are black, along with several Latino players.
Third base coach Carlos Febles, a native of the Dominican Republic, and Cuban American outfielder J.D. Martinez, who gave Trump a No. 18 Red Sox jersey, did attend the event on the White House South Lawn.
“We don’t see it as a racial divide,” Werner said when asked about the players who chose not to attend. “I think to the extent that we can, we think that baseball is apolitical.”
Though other athletes and teams have passed on the White House celebrations, Werner said the Red Sox never considered missing it. He said they were all grateful to be there, also enjoying a visit to the Oval Office and a tour of the Lincoln Bedroom.
“No, I think we were honored by it,” Werner said. “People watch sports as a way to get away from their daily problems. And to us, this was a great tribute to what was a great championship.”