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If Raptors are pulling out an NBA championship, would Canada's team get a White House welcome?



There is an elite American tradition at the White House: American professional sports teams, American champions and American medalists can be expected to make US Presidential invitations to promise their athletic achievements.

Everyone who takes us to the Toronto Raptors.

With a 3-2 series of Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on Thursday's game 6, Canada's only NBA team is within a win (knock on hardwood!) To become the first non-American franchise to win a title.

It is close enough, it seems to the historians and experts of the President and White House Protocol to wonder: Would the best-known residence in the United States retain tradition by opening its doors to the NBA champions, even if the winners are a Canadian law?

If you're wondering, we've been here before – with baseball. But also about George H.W. Bush welcomed the 1992 World Series winner Toronto Blue Jays to the executive mansion, Jays resume triumph next year resulted in no such visit during Bill Clinton's new administration.

The Golden State Warriors are depicted with US President Barack Obama during a ceremony that honored the 2016 NBA championship team in the East Room at the White House. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY / Associated Press)

Although the White House usually honors the NHL Stanley Cup winners, as US President Donald Trump did to welcome the Washington Capitals in March last year, it is an open question whether a Canadian hockey team would make the guest list. No Canadian NHL team has won a Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

In 2017, players from the NBA champions Warriors played an invitation from Trump, who later revoked his invitation. In 2018, Trump refused to invite the war arena after they reclaimed the title.

For its part, Canada would be a game to donate a similar honor if the Raptors become masters. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's press secretary Matt Pascuzzo wrote in an email to CBC News: "All Canadians are behind the Toronto Raptors, and we listen to them at every step of the way. The team has already made history, and we would definitely be honored to invite them to Parliament. "

Whether the same hospitality can be extended by the Americans is less secure. Six experts spoke to CBC News about the likelihood that the Raptors – in anticipation of a victory – could receive invitations to visit the White House. Their responses, edited for length and clarity, are below.

Lea Berman, White House Secretary under George W. Bush:

I never went into a Canadian team that won when I was at the White House, but I'm sure the Bush administration would have invited them in because they wouldn't have wanted to leave them. Not inviting them would have been rude, and they would have liked to acknowledge both our close friendship with Canada and acknowledge the achievements of US team members.

The best reason to invite Raptors to the White House? It's good retail policy – inclusive, friendly, a happy event. Why not?

Mark Updegrove, President and CEO of Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation:

1992, US President George H.W. Bush accepted a Toronto Blue Jays shirt from Joe's Joe Carter, right, during a White House ceremony. (Ron Edmonds / Associated Press)

Look, I hate the fragmented relationship between the United States and Canada, and how it goes. But the NBA has almost become a famous North American culture. Canada is an extension of that.

In the old days you probably had a social secretary and a chief of the protocol says that the normal thing to do is to invite them to the White House and say, "This is how we've done it before." But my guess is that Trump will decide if they are fans of his or her and decide …. My guess is that it can be a political calculation because of the wrestling relationship between him and Trudeau.

Jeremy Bernard, White House Social Secretary 2011-2015, during Barack Obama:

US President Donald Trump has a New England Patriots jersey presented to him by coach Bill Belichick, left and law owner Bob Kraft, right, in an event to honor the 2017 Super Bowl champions at the White House. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

To be honest, I do not know about a foreign law – even with US athletes – to get an invitation. I don't know offhand. There were so many events we did.

I think the fact that Raptors are part of the NBA, I think it would seem like it's no wonder they would be invited to the White House. But there is no playbook for this.

Mike Purdy, President historian:

In an alternative universe from the one we live in, a president, in the interest of international relations and honoring a sports team, can invite a foreign team to the White House. But Trump is unpredictable, so it is someone's guess at which version of Trump will appear if the Raptors win.

During any other Presidency, the Head of Protocol would be significantly involved in both the decision and the implementation of such an invitation. Trump seems to be a male PR expert, and he would be the one who would make such a decision to invite them and he would orchestrate the event to his liking.

Melinda Bates, director of the White House visitor office during the Clinton administration:

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, stands next to Obama, in match 2 of the NBA finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto earlier this month. (Dan Hamilton-USA today / Reuters)

An invitation to the championship is extended by the White House after the president's own discretion. And in a normal white house, with an ordinary president, such an invitation would be graciously offered, even to a non-American law.

I think if the winners win, and if several of the players announce that they will not go if they are invited, as has already happened with other championships, the White House will announce that they never even offered an invitation – so there!

Paris Dennard, co-worker of the public association's office under George W. Bush:

If the president makes an invitation to the raptors, he would welcome those who want to come, for it is a great honor to be invited by the US president and to be recognized on behalf of a grateful nation for your accomplishments. I hope that if there are members of the team who do not want to go, they would just make it known privately and just not go.

When you look at the opportunity, Toronto – prematurely speaking – of course – if the president were to invite them, he would invite the NBA champions. So just because the team is in Toronto doesn't matter. They are still part of the National Basketball Association. And traditionally, the invitation has gone to the NBA champions as well as to the NFL champion, the NCAA champion or the Major League Baseball champion.

The President has a wonderful working relationship with Prime Minister Trudeau. And if there is an invitation to the Raptors, you would expect the Canadian ambassador to be there.


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