US Winter Olympics stars miss White House visit
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump welcomed the United States’ Winter Olympics teams to the White House Friday, but the list of absentees read like a who’s who list of America’s most well-known athletes.
Lindsey Vonn, Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon were among the stars absent, some citing political differences with the president.
Freestyle skier Kenworthy, a vocal Trump critic, tweeted Thursday “the resistance is real” in reference to the White House no-shows.
“All US Olympians and Paralympians are invited to visit the White House and meet the President after the Games,” tweeted the American, whose kiss with boyfriend Matthew Wilkas in Pyeongchang, South Korea became worldwide news after it was broadcast live on national television.
“Today is this year’s visit and USOC [US Olympic Committee] spokesperson says he’s never seen so many athletes turn down their invites. The resistance is real.”
Figure skater Rippon, who won bronze at PyeongChang 2018 in February, tweeted Friday he would also snub the event.
“I will not be going. I will not stand with people who discriminate against those that they perceive as different. In lieu of going to DC, I have donated to a few of my favorite causes,” he wrote in the tweet.
Vonn, who “liked” Rippon’s tweet, told CNN in December she would turn down any White House invite.
The US Olympic Committee has yet to respond to CNN’s request for a comment, but on its official website it said more than 200 athletes attended the celebration.
Among those present were the victorious women’s ice hockey team and Red Gerrard, the 17-year-old snowboarder who won his country’s first gold of PyeongChang 2018.
“This is a very proud day and I’m thrilled to stand here and welcome Team USA to the White House,” the president said with the Olympians standing around him.
“Two months ago America sent each of you to the Winter Olympics to represent the red, white and blue and you did a great job. You performed and did us very proud.”
‘I would definitely decline my White House visit’
Kenworthy and Rippon were the first openly gay athletes to represent the US at a Winter Games.
The pair have been vocal against the Trump administration, and during the Games used social media to tell Vice President Mike Pence what they thought of his position on gay rights.
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, citing religious freedom. He later signed an amendment that prevented the law from being used to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.
Rippon, 28, last week named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, is currently preparing to compete on the hit US TV show Dancing with the Stars.
Kenworthy told CNN Sport in February: “I would definitely decline my White House visit and when we were at our team processing, where everyone gets fitted for an Olympic ring they said: ‘Hey, you can pick this up at the White House visit’ and I said, ‘I’m not going to that’ and they were like ‘yeah, most of the athletes aren’t’.”
Vonn — the most successful American alpine skier in history — is another Winter Olympian who has spoken out against Trump’s presidency.
“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” Vonn told CNN’s Alpine Edge in December.
According to USA Today other major names to miss the photo opportunity were Olympic champions Chloe Kim, Shaun White and opening ceremony flag bearer Erin Hamlin, but it is not clear whether the trio – and others – skipped the meeting for political reasons.
Hamlin told USA Today that she would be visiting a children’s center instead, while Kim told the Washington Post she would be attending a wedding.