All The 2018 Winter Olympic Athletes Skipping Out On That White House Visit

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On Friday, April 27, around 200 2018 Winter Olympic athletes will visit the White House, accepting an invitation from President Trump to celebrate their achievements at the PyeongChang Games. However, many familiar faces from the Games will be missing from the White House festivities. Indeed, some athletes have specifically indicated that they will not be attending due to their lack of support for the Trump administration, while others have unrelated conflicts preventing them from attending.

As the Washington Post reported, several prominent athletes said long ago that they would not attend any White House Olympics events — and they appear to be sticking to their initial inclinations. For example, CNN asked skier Lindsey Vonn back in December if she would accept a White House invitation. In response, the skier pointedly stated, “Absolutely not. Nope. I have to win to be invited so – no, actually I think every US team member is invited. So, no, I won’t go.” In that same interview, Vonn also noted that she represented the United States and not the president.

In addition to Vonn, another athlete, freeskier Gus Kenworthy, also preemptively revealed he would not be going to the White House. Back in January 2018, Kenworthy told Reuters that he would turn down the invite because he did not agree with the administration's policies. As Kenworthy noted at the time,

I am very proud to represent the U.S. but I don’t stand by Trump and his cabinet and their policies ... I do not want to feign approval for policies that are in place and things that are being pushed at the moment, by going. If I was invited I would decline my spot.
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Other athletes, like figure skaters Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen, also previously noted that they did not plan to attend the White House event due to their disapproval of the Trump administration. However, Rippon and Chen also have other commitments inhibiting them from attending the White House festivities. Chen is a part of the Stars on Ice tour and Rippon is participating in Stars on Ice as well as in Dancing with the Stars. As the Washington Post reported, the schedules for both of these shows conflict with the White House visit.

Indeed, many more athletes are expected to miss the White House gathering because of these two events. The Washington Post further reported that figure skater Mirai Nagasu, along with Chris Mazdzer, a luger, and Jamie Anderson, a snowboarder, will all skip the meeting with Trump due to conflicts with Dancing with the Stars. The paper further reported that many more figure skaters will also miss the meeting because of Stars on Ice. Stars on Ice's website lists its cast as including Maia and Alex Shibutani, Bradie Tennell, Madison Hubbell, and Zachary Donohue, in addition to the skaters already mentioned.

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Finally, some athletes also simply have personal conflicts preventing them from heading to Washington. As the Washington Post reported, celebrated snowboarders Chloe Kim and Shaun White both have weddings to attend, inhibiting their ability to come to D.C.

While many of the most recognizable athletes from the PyeongChang games will not be attending the White House event, the U.S. Olympic Committee says that, overall, turnout is still expected to be quite good. "We’ve had really good response rate to date in terms of RSVPs,” Patrick Sandusky, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief external affairs officer, told USA Today. “It’s certainly on par with past White House visits," he added. AOL reported that, overall, around 200 Olympic and Paralympic athletes will head to the White House on Friday. This represents around two-thirds of the total size of Team USA.

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Before they head to the White House at the end of the week, many athletes will also participate in other D.C.-based events, including the Team USA Awards on April 26. The awards will recognize the top American athletes and coaches from the 2018 Winter Games.

Overall, while many members of Team USA are missing out on the White House gathering for a variety of reasons, it still appears that the majority of athletes do plan on visiting the Executive Branch.