The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team has declined an invitation to attend a ceremony Friday honoring NCAA championship teams at the White House, and said it instead wants to stay focused on its 2018 season.
“We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow’s event, but we will not be able to attend,” coach Dawn Staley said in a statement Thursday. “As I’ve been saying since our practices for the season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”
Eighteen college championship teams are attending an event Friday with President Trump. The president typically hosts championship teams, and Trump welcomed the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, and the Clemson Tigers football team this year.
Staley said in September her team, which won the championship in April, hadn’t yet received an invitation from the White House to meet with Trump.
“We haven’t gotten an invitation yet and that in itself speaks volumes,” Staley told the Associated Press. “We won before those other teams won their championships. I don’t know what else has to happen.”
The coach said at the time she wasn’t sure the team would travel to Washington, D.C., if they did receive an invite.
But the office of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Post and Courier the team should expect an invitation. Haley and Staley are friends.
In June, Staley said she would meet Trump at the White House.
“National champions go, and I’m going to go,” she said.