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Clemson absences from White House visit not all about Trump, Tigers leader says

Trump serves fast food dinner to Clemson Tigers football team at White House

President Trump welcomed the national champion Clemson Tigers to the White House on Monday night, serving them McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King.
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President Trump welcomed the national champion Clemson Tigers to the White House on Monday night, serving them McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King.

One of Clemson’s defensive leaders is shooting down national reports that appear to try to cause a stink over who did and didn’t make the trip to the White House after the team’s national championship win over Alabama.

Former Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph told The State that any attempt to put too much emphasis on politics as the reason 45 players opted not to go is misguided and that one report that said players were pressured to go or threatened was “trash.”

Of Clemson’s 119 student-athletes on the 2018 roster, 74 were part of the most recent trip to Washington, D.C., according to a review of the attendee list provided by the university. The Root, a website that is part of the company that owns Deadspin and Jezebel, cited three players anonymously who said Trump’s politics were the reason they passed on the trip.

“I think everybody had different reasons. Personally for me, we were booked to go (to the White House) that Monday and I had already scheduled my flight to fly to Florida on Sunday,” said Joseph, a senior and a team captain for Clemson this past season. “For a lot of the older guys, it was either (NFL) training, they had already planned on moving on and going to train so they didn’t really have time to go there. Or they just didn’t want to go for personal reasons. For me it was just training.”

Joseph and several of his teammates had already made plans to leave the Upstate and start training for the NFL Draft prior to the trip to the White House being scheduled, he said.

Joseph added that the fact that he visited the White House after Trump’s invite two years ago when Clemson won the national championship factored into his decision. That was a big reason why several of his teammates did not go this year as well, he said.

“Talking to most of the guys, that was the biggest reason. We had already been. It was a cool experience, but it wasn’t one where, ‘Oh, I’m dying to go again,’ you know?” Joseph said. “On my accord I would say that was the biggest reason. Guys were like, ‘Yeah, I’ve already been there, done that.’ ”

Clemson won the college football national championship against Alabama in a blowout 44-16 victory at Santa Clara January 7, 2019.

In 2017, the Tigers visited the White House in June, a full six months after the game. This year’s quick turnaround also played a role in some players being unable to go, according to Joseph.

Clemson won the national championship game Monday, Jan. 7, and returned home Tuesday. By Friday, Trump announced that he would be hosting the Tigers on Monday, Jan. 14, a week after the title game.

“It was crazy. We were kind of like, ‘Huh?’ We got back Tuesday, and by Wednesday or Thursday they were telling us about the trip,” Joseph said. “People were already booked to do what they had to do, fly out. It was just so short notice.”

Joseph discounted a separate published report that cited information from The Root article and said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney might penalize players for not attending the White House by limiting their playing time or yanking their scholarships. That story was from BlackSportsOnline, which describes itself as “the #1 minority-owned independent sports website in the United States.”

“That’s trash. That’s trash. That’s so false,” Joseph said. “Coach Swinney doesn’t operate that way. He asked us to go just for the full experience being able to celebrate going 15-0 and doing something that’s never been done. That was his main reason why he wanted us to go. Of course some people didn’t want to go because of the president, but that wasn’t his focus. He was just wanting us to go for the experience because he felt like looking back on it 10 years down the line, we might have wished we went. But I mean come on. It was never anything close to that. He just asked us to go and you’re a grown man you make your own decision. But any of that stuff is just clickbait and just people just trying to get a reaction, people just bored… I mean come on. That’s crazy.”

Joe Galbraith, Clemson’s associate vice president for Strategic Communications and University Relations, provided The State with a list of players that attended the White House.

Of Clemson’s 11 offensive starters, only guard Gage Cervenka, tight end Garrett Williams, receiver Hunter Renfrow and quarterback Trevor Lawrence made the trip.

Of Clemson’s 11 defensive starters, cornerback A.J. Terrell and safety Tanner Muse made the trip.

Several of Clemson’s most recent offensive and defensive starters made the trip two years ago, including Mitch Hyatt, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Isaiah Simmons and Joseph.

Here is a list that Clemson provided of the players who attended the White House event earlier this month, as well as a list of players who did not attend:

DID ATTEND WHITE HOUSE

J.L. Banks, Jr., TE

Ben Batson, Fr., QB

Mike Becker, Fr., S

Matt Bockhorst, Fr., OL

John Boyd, Fr., LB

Chase Brice, Fr., QB

Tyler Brown, So., TE

Will Brown, Fr., WR

Ty Burris-Lucas, Fr., RB

Jackson Carman, Fr., OL

Gage Cervenka, Jr., OL

J.C. Chalk, So., TE

Kyle Cote, Sr., S

Peter Cote, Fr., S

Noah Dehond, Fr., OL

Carson Donnelly, Fr., S

Jacob Edwards, Fr., DT

James Edwards, Fr., DT

Tavien Feaster, Jr., RB

Justin Foster, So., DE

Robert Gettys, Fr., OL

Zach Giella, Jr., OL

Carter Groomes, So., WR

Landon Holden, So., LB

Greg Huegel, Sr., K

Joshua Jackson, So., WR

Darnell Jefferies, Fr., DT

Stan Jones, Jr., DL

Carson King, Sr., P

Matt King, Sr., LB

Trevor Lawrence, Fr., QB

Ryan Mac Lain, Sr., RB

Jack Maddox, Fr., LS

Max May, Fr., WR

Sylvester Mayers, So., RB

Jack McCall, Fr., CB

Patrick McClure, Fr., QB

Jordan McFadden, Fr., OL

Kyler McMichael, Fr., CB

Hall Morton, So., DB

Tristan Moss-Walliser, So., LB

Tanner Muse, Jr., S

Seth Penner, Sr., OL

Patrick Phibbs, Jr., LS

Sean Pollard, Jr., OL

B.T. Potter, Fr., K

Luke Price, Fr., LB

Chandler Reeves, So., OL

Darien Rencher, So., RB

Hunter Renfrow, Sr., WR

Cole Renfrow, So., TE

James Rowell, Sr., DT

Logan Rudolph, Fr., DE

Steven Sawicki, Jr., K

Marquis Sease, Fr., OL

James Skalski, Jr., LB

Chad Smith, Sr., LB

Cannon Smith, Sr., TE

Baylon Spector, Fr., LB

Alex Spence, Sr., K

Austin Spence, Sr., LS

Will Spiers, So., P

Cade Stewart, So., OL

Drew Swinney, Fr., WR

Will Swinney, So., WR

A.J. Terrell, So., CB

Ty Thomason, Sr., RB

Trevion Thompson, Sr., WR

Elijah Turner, Jr., S

Nolan Turner, So., S

Jake Venables, Fr., LB

Blake Vinson, Fr., OL

Garrett Williams, Jr., TE

LeAnthony Williams, Fr., CB

DID NOT ATTEND WHITE HOUSE

Tremayne Anchrum, Jr., OL

Austin Bryant, Sr., DE

T.J. Chase, So., WR

Adam Choice, Sr., RB

J.D. Davis, Sr., LB

Judah Davis, Sr., LB

Brian Dawkins Jr., So., CB

Lyn-J Dixon, Fr., RB

Travis Etienne, So., RB

Justin Falcinelli, Sr., OL

Clelin Ferrell, Jr., DE

Mark Fields, Sr., CB

Braden Galloway, Fr., TE

Mario Goodrich, Fr., CB

K.J. Henry, Fr., DE

Tee Higgins, So., WR

Albert Huggins, Sr., DT

Mitch Hyatt, Sr., OL

Austin Jackson, Jr., S

Denzel Johnson, Jr., S

Mike Jones Jr., Fr., LB

Kendall Joseph, Sr., LB

Xavier Kelly, So., DL

Derion Kendrick, Fr., WR

Tre Lamar, Jr., LB

Dexter Lawrence, Jr., DT

Justin Mascoll, Fr., DE

Trayvon Mullen, Jr., CB

Diondre Overton, Jr., WR

Nyles Pinckney, So., DT

Cornell Powell, Jr., WR

Chris Register, Sr., DE

Milan Richard, Sr., TE

Amari Rodgers, So., WR

Justyn Ross, Fr., WR

Cameron Scott, Sr., CB

Isaiah Simmons, So., S

John Simpson, Jr., OL

Shaq Smith, So., LB

Xavier Thomas, Fr., DL

Regan Upshaw, So., LB

K’Von Wallace, Jr., S

Christian Wilkins, Sr., DT

Jalen Williams, Sr., LB

Jordan Williams, Fr., DT

President Trump on Monday night praised Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence for his performance in the team's win over Alabama in the national championship.

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The State.com
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