Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby announced Friday that he will not join the team in visiting President Donald Trump at the White House.
Holtby said he had to stay true to his values and “respectfully decline the offer.”
“It’s a tough situation for everyone to be in, to be forced to make a decision of that standing,” said Holtby, a 29-year-old Canadian. “You’re a team. You want to stick together no matter what. I hope everyone kind of blows it away and don’t worry about who goes, who doesn’t.”
Holtby joins Brett Connolly in declining to attend the visit, but the majority of Capitals players have said they will go. President Trump will host the team March 25 to honor their 2018 Stanley Cup victory.
The goalie said he wasn’t surprised by the controversy surrounding the Capitals’ visit. Since Trump won office, teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia Eagles have been “disinvited” from championship celebrations at the White House because some of their players criticized Trump.
“Once the first team doesn’t go it puts the onus on every other player in professional sports to be forced into making a decision, if you’re political or not,” Holtby said. “That’s why I think our team we’re trying to take the most professional way we can with the ‘every player has a right to choose’ and stand by each and every one of us, regardless of what you decide.”
A supporter of LGBTQ rights, Holtby has participated in activism both with the NHL and the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights advocacy group.
“My family and myself, we believe in a world where humans are treated with respect, regardless of your stature, what you’re born into,” Holtby said. “That’s just where it’s at, in terms of this decision. You’re asked to choose which side you’re on and I think it’s pretty clear what side I’m on.”
John Carlson and T.J. Oshie, both Americans, confirmed to reporters Friday that they will be part of the visit.
“It’s an experience that I want to be a part of and see through,” Carlson said. “Something that you dream about, getting honored as the champions, and something that we worked really hard for.”
Coach Todd Reirden told reporters he personally considered the White House invitation “an amazing opportunity,” but he’s also expressed support for his players who chose not to go.
“I support whatever our players’ choices and decisions are,” Reirden said Friday. “I’m backing them. That’s their individual choice to attend or not attend and I’ll always support our players.”
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