By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
BALTIMORE – The District of Columbia is about an hour from this city of charm but the trip to be made today could set the Boston Red Sox back more than an hour, maybe more than a year. The Red Sox organization walked its team and manager, Alex Cora, right into the center of controversy by accepting an invitation to visit the White House. Both Cora and the club rightfully state it’s all a matter of choice.
In fact, they’re both right.
The tradition of championship teams being invited to the White House has taken on extraordinary political meaning for this particular trip because of the Trump administration’s poor handling of hurricane relief in response to Hurricane Maria which devastated the island in 2017. An estimated 3,000 died as a result of the storm.
In polarizing manner, President Donald Trump trivialized the hurricane relief efforts and later mocked Puerto Rico’s Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan. On an official visit, Trump stooped so low as to toss paper towels to hurricane victims gathering for relief, food, water and supplies.
Cora declined the WH invitation noting, “Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting,” Cora said in a statement. “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. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”
A reported eight other Red Sox, all Latino and African-American, joined Cora and will not make the visit today. Red Sox legend David Ortiz also supported Cora’s decision and went on record via Boston’s WEEI Radio to voice his viewpoint.
“I’m an immigrant,” said Ortiz. “When it comes down to the political side of it, I don’t know much about politics and things like that, but when it comes down [to] the way immigrants have been treated, it’s something that goes a long way,” Ortiz, who was born in the Dominican Republic, told WEEI earlier this week. “You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like [expletive] because I’m an immigrant.
“Alex is in a tough spot right now, going there and acting like nothing is happening. It’s like you are going to shake hands with the enemy. Think about it, all the stuff that has been going on since he took office. People are angry. People are mad. He has divided people, that’s how it feels like,” added Ortiz, the most influential and outspoken of Boston sports legends.
Team chemistry and the perceived racial divide of the team is also in question as no Latino or Black team members plan to attend but a listing of white players making the visit brought about perceived political and racial divides within the Sox’ locker room.
Players and team execs deny any locker room issues are arising not at the root of the controversy, but basic support of Cora’s and Puerto Rico’s plight can not go hand-in-hand without questioning the motives of those attending and notattending the tainted ceremony planned today at the WH Rose Garden.
“I’m excited to just go visit the White House,” said Red Sox utility man Brock Holt to WBZ-TV. “It’s not something a lot of people get to do.
“Everyone has a right to an opinion,” added Holt. “We support the guys who are not going and they support us.”
While no commentary can criticize the right of Red Sox players to make their own decision on attending the ceremony today nor fault the organization for accepting the invitation in the first place. Simply ignoring the invitation or declining it outright might not’ve been the answer, either.
With the fact the Red Sox have an off-day tonight but play at Fenway tomorrow, there simply isn’t enough time for the Sox to send Cora and club officials on another relief trip to the island. However, the club could’ve organized a Puerto Rico relief rally today in Boston to raise money for additional humanitarian efforts and show support to their manager.