‘New tradition’ needed? Miami Dolphins say White House visits can be a thrill

President Donald Trump honors the national championship team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, during a White House ceremony in April. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

DAVIE — When the Alabama Crimson Tide visited the White House after winning last season’s national championship, Minkah Fitzpatrick was nowhere to be seen.

Controversy?

Hardly.

Fitzpatrick was on a pre-draft visit with the 49ers in San Francisco.

“It was scheduled in,” Fitzpatrick, a defensive back drafted by the Dolphins in the first round, said Tuesday. “Not lined up very well.”

If not for the visit, it appears likely Fitzpatrick would have been mingling with teammates, coach Nick Saban and President Donald Trump. Fitzpatrick had been to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. once before, after his freshman season, and enjoyed meeting Barack Obama.

“It was cool,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We flew up to the White House, got a little tour of one of the wings of the White House. We sat in his library, checked it out, looked at some books and Obama came into this one room. I shook hands with him. He talked with us for a little bit, took some pictures and then there was like a little ceremony at the end. Overall, it was a great experience.”

But it’s one the Philadelphia Eagles won’t have, now that Trump canceled the traditional visit and some Eagles players indicated they weren’t going to attend anyway. It has caused a national flap over what for years had largely been a traditional, non-partisan celebration of American sports.

“I would love to do that because it’s the result of you winning a championship,” Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett said.

“But the rest of it, I don’t really know,” Lippett added, referring to the political controversy between Trump and NFL players who kneel during the anthem to protest social injustice. Ironically, none of the Eagles was kneeling during the anthem last season.

Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris said he doubts many athletes consider White House visits motivation during a season.

“I’m trying to win each and every day,” Harris said. “So that’s not a part of anybody’s mental (approach). That’s something that comes with it. After you get to the highest platform and you win, then that’s on your mind.

“But when you’re on the bottom, you aren’t thinking about that.”

We’ll start to learn soon enough if the nixed Eagles trip is an aberration. The Stanley Cup Final is nearing a conclusion, so imagine if the Capitals close out the series with Las Vegas but aren’t invited for a crosstown celebration ceremony.

Imagine if this tradition is ending, period.

“I don’t know,” Lippett said. “Guess you’d have to find a new tradition, I don’t know.”

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