President Donald Trump has received criticism for inviting the Clemson football team to the White House in the midst of a partial government shutdown.
Clemson players and coaches are set to visit the White House on Monday, exactly one week after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship and roughly three weeks into the longest government shutdown in history.
The optics of the White House celebration did not sit well with some observers nationally, and even some fans and graduates of Clemson University disagreed with the timing. The trip came together faster than visits from previous college football champions during the Trump administration.
Julianna Ellis, a lifelong Tiger fan who grew up in Clemson, graduated from the university in 2014 with a degree in biological sciences. She is a federal employee and just missed a full paycheck because of the shutdown.
While Ellis was excited to see the team win the championship, she said it is frustrating and disheartening to see the problems of federal employees brushed aside for a celebration.
“I have seen others not sure how they will pay rent or feed their families,” said Ellis, who works as a park ranger in South Dakota. “It is hard to see people in my position struggling and then to have this sort of trivial event.”
Ellis has some savings to hold her over during the shutdown. Working in a rural area though, there are not a lot of options for picking up part-time work.
While she said seeing the team visit the White House during the shutdown will not change her love of the Tigers, she wishes the team would acknowledge the situation.
More: Trump tweets that national champion Clemson will visit White House
Other Clemson fans saw the invitation as simply an opportunity for the student-athletes and coaches to be celebrated, just like many other professional and college teams throughout the years.
During the Trump administration, however, the tradition has become more controversial because some view attending the ceremonial event as support of his policies or him as a person.
“This is about the Tigers, not Trump’s policies,” one person wrote on the Greenville News Facebook page in response to a story about the president’s invitation. “Whether you like Trump or not, it is still an honor to be invited to our nation’s White House.”
In recent years, Trump has uninvited the Philadelphia Eagles and Golden State Warriors after they won championships because some of the players on each team said they didn’t want to go. One Clemson fan viewed going to the White House as apolitical.
“Dabo has taught them to put differences aside and to love,” they wrote. “Something both Republicans and Democrats could learn from.”
On social media, many questioned what kind of resources would be needed to host the team. CNN commentator Keith Boykin and others were skeptical of the optics.
“Is this an essential activity?” Josh Barro, a New York Magazine columnist, questioned on Twitter. “What federal workers are putting this event together?”
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan and Senator Lindsey Graham both attended the team’s celebration Saturday in Death Valley. They are also set to join the White House visit, their offices confirmed.
Monday’s visit will be a return trip to the White House for some Clemson players. The team celebrated the 2016 season championship with President Trump in June 2017. The Crimson Tide visited the White House in April 2018.
Published 2:13 PM EST Jan 13, 2019