When Filet-O-Fish aficionado Donald Trump invited the Clemson Tigers to enjoy the White House’s first Presidential Value Meal, most of Clemson’s national championship football team members jumped at the opportunity to meet the original cheeseburger-swallowing clown. But The Root has learned that Clemson’s black players, some specifically citing racism and their disdain for Trump’s divisive politics, passed on the opportunity to hang out with the real-life Mayor McCheese.
The Root spoke with three black Clemson players who each separately confirmed that many players, both black and white, had no interest in making the trip. All three acknowledged that Donald Trump was the reason they chose not to attend. Even more telling, most of Clemson’s white players were in attendance while nearly three-fourths of the school’s black football players took a hard pass on the chance to eat cold fries with the president of people who eat salads from McDonald’s.
“It wasn’t like we had a team meeting or anything,” said one of Clemson’s offensive stars who spoke with The Root on the condition of anonymity. “Players were talking amongst each other but everybody was like: ‘I’m not going to that.’”
Another defensive standout noted that coaches didn’t pressure players to accompany the team to Washington, D.C., but said that almost every black player he knew didn’t want to take the trip. However, he noted that he knew that some players only attended because they worried that refusing to attend the traditional White House visit might affect their scholarships or playing time.
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“Not saying anything against the players who went,” the junior explained, “but if you look at who went—freshman and people fighting for playing time—you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
In total, 15 of the University’s black players listed on the school’s official roster attended the White House visit, the vast majority of whom (11) were freshmen or sophomores who had very little playing time during the season. Just one senior made the trip and only six of the players in attendance were even listed on Clemson’s national championship depth chart. There are at least 57 black student-athletes on Clemson’s official team roster, which means 74 percent of Clemson’s African-American players chose not to make the trip to the White House.
In an email to The Root, Joe Galbraith, Clemson’s associate vice president for strategic communications, said approximately two-thirds of Clemson’s players attended Happy Mealopalooza.
“We had 76 student-athletes (approximately two-thirds of the team) make the trip to D.C.,” Galbraith’s statement read. “For a variety of reasons, several players were not able to adjust schedules to make the trip.
“On the championship game roster, 26 players had already received their bachelor’s degree, and had no planned obligations on campus beginning that week,” the email added. “Other student-athletes had class obligations as the spring semester began the week prior.”
However, according to the school’s academic calendar, Clemson was less than a week into its spring semester and all three players acknowledged that their professors would have excused the absences.
“So, you think players just wanted to go to classes so bad?” another sophomore member of the team asked rhetorically. “They told us it was up to us. Folk just didn’t want to go.”
To Clemson’s credit, all three students individually confirmed that Clemson’s coaches, staff or administration did not pressure them to attend the McNugget buffet nor did any official tell them to keep quiet about their reasons for not going. The players also noted that they harbored no ill feelings towards the players who chose to make the trek to McDonaldland.
“This team is a family,” said the freshman baller. “You don’t always agree with your family on everything but still ... that’s my brother, no matter what.”
When asked if they regretted their decision to stay in South Carolina once they saw the piles of cold McMeat their teammates got to enjoy, all three laughed.
“Now if it was some Five Guys, I might feel different,” responded one.