WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals will head to the White House Monday to meet with President Trump following the team's historic World Series victory. But pitcher Sean Doolittle won't be going.
"There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country," Doolittle said in an interview with The Washington Post.
"At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can't do it," Doolittle said. "I just can't do it."
The Nationals earned their first-ever World Series title after beating the Houston Astros Wednesday night. The White House continued its long-standing tradition, extending a formal invite for the team to meet with the president on Monday.
Doolittle cited many reasons for declining the invitation, including his family's volunteer work with refugees, his LGBTQ relatives and an autistic family member.
"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked, or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."
Doolittle is the first team member to publicly announce his decision not to attend the event. He said he respects his teammates' decisions and doesn't want to be a distraction for them.
"People say you should go because it's about respecting the office of the president," Doolittle said. "And I think over the course of his time in office he's done a lot of things that maybe don't respect the office."
"The rhetoric, time and time again, has enabled those kind of behaviors," Doolittle said, according to The Post, which said he was referring to white supremacy and racism. "That never really went away, but it feels like now people with those beliefs, they maybe feel a little bit more empowered. They feel like they have a path, maybe. I don't want to hang out with somebody who talks like that."
Doolittle said he wants his teammates to enjoy their experience at the White House, but reiterated that he couldn't be part of the festivities. He'll still take part in a celebratory parade in D.C. on Saturday.
"I don't want to get mad online, as they say," he said. "I want people to know that I put thought into this and, at the end of the day, I just can't go."