Wayne Rooney, arguably the best English soccer player of his generation, now plies his trade in Washington D.C. for DC United. Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son, is a rabid soccer fan (of Arsenal, but we forgive him) who, reportedly, has played for DC United’s youth team.
Thus, it came to pass that, at Barron’s urging, Rooney was invited to attend last year’s White House Christmas party.
Rooney did attend, as President Trump’s guest. Trump gave Rooney and his family a private White House tour, and the legendary player took photos with Barron.
Rooney’s White House visit, coupled with the fact that he once met a friend at the Trump International Hotel (the horror!), gives rise to this article in the Washington Post magazine. Should Rooney have snubbed Trump and young Barron? That is the question.
The author, Samuel Ashworth, probably thinks he did an even-handed job of considering it, perhaps not realizing that to ask the question at all is to concede too much to Trump derangement. On the one hand, Ashworth allowed, there’s nothing wrong, generally speaking, with athlete’s visiting the White House and hanging out with the president. On the other hand, “any public figure who receives a White House invitation has to square being honored by the president with being honored by this president.” (Emphasis added)
What’s the source of this moral imperative? Ashworth finds it in the fact that the president attacked Colin Kaepernick for not honoring the National Anthem and “disinvited” the Golden State Warriors after it appeared they were going to turn down Trump’s invitation. Why any of this should cause problems for athletes who don’t think America is too awful to show respect for while the Anthem is being played and who, unlike Steph Curry et al, actually want to visit the White House, Ashworth does not explain.
In the end, though, he seems to exonerate Rooney on the grounds that Rooney, a foreigner, can’t be expected to appreciate the evil of Trump; that he seems apolitical, at least as to U.S. politics; and that he did not intend his appearance to signify any positive feeling about Trump.
What if Rooney thinks Trump is a good president and felt honored to meet him? That, apparently, would put his White House visit be beyond the pale, rendering it even less forgivable than meeting a friend at Trump’s hotel.