At least three '72 Dolphins refuse White House invite

They hope teammates enjoy, but don't want to visit President Obama

I'm not going to lie. I wish they were going. I think they all should go. The 1972 Dolphins go to the White House on Tuesday for a fun road trip down Pennsylvania Avenue and memory lane.

Rather, most of them will go.

A few players have previously scheduled engagements they couldn't leave. That happens. But the conversation will be about three refusing to go because of politics and President Obama. Two others are on the fence about going for the same reason.

So as many as five might not go due to politics. They're respectful. They wish their teammates well. Bob Kuechenberg's first words were, "I want to be careful, because mom said if you have nothing good to say about someone, then don't say anything. I don't have anything good to say about someone."

This is where you realize a trip meant to be fun and 41 years in the making isn't viewed as fun by everyone invited.

"We've got some real moral compass issues in Washington," Hall of Fame center Jim Langer said. "I don't want to be in a room with those people and pretend I'm having a good time. I can't do that. If that [angers] people, so be it."

"I'll just say my views are diametrically opposed to the President's," Manny Fernandez said. "Enough said. Let's leave it at that. I hope everyone enjoys the trip who goes."

They have every right to feel this way, of course. And their stances aren't so surprising. A growing sports tradition accompanying the one of championship teams to the White House is players protesting politics by not going.

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk didn't join the NFL champions to protest President Obama's right-to-life views. Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas passed on the White House trip because the government, "has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties and Property of the People."

If players still in the relative youth of life and career custody of their teams make such statements, it was bound to happen with these undefeated Dolphins. They're in their 60s and 70s now. They've lived full lives and have entrenched opinions.

Langer said he was first asked informally about a year ago if he'd go to this White House.

"No, never," he said.

Again, I wish they all were going as a team. That's my thought. It's a shame because they've remained a team for 41 years. It's a shame, because about half of any team visiting the White House disagrees with any sitting president judging by the ballots.

It's also a shame because this fuels the Grumpy, Old Men motif that's clattered behind this team through the years. The first president in four decades invites them to the White House and is turned down for politics?

But here's the thing: They have every right to do this. The two players on the fence asked me not to name them. Maybe they go. Maybe not. The three who decided not to go are respectfully firm.

"I don't belong there, I'll tell you that," Kuechenberg said. "Without being critical, I can just tell you I don't belong. It would be hypocritical of me to be there.

"I don't want to do that. I just don't believe in this administration at all. So I don't belong. Anyone on the left or the right has to respect one man's opinion."

Forty-one years ago, the '72 Dolphins followed orders, swallowed egos, tamped down personalities and came together for the good of a team. That was their job.

Forty-one years later, it's different. It's more complex. It's not a job. It's their beliefs.

"I think it's great if [other players] want to have that function at the White House," Langer said. "I have other stuff to do."

He'll be fishing with his 4-year-old grandson, Max, instead of going to the White House. You can appreciate that. You can respect their right to follow their beliefs.

You can still consider it a shame.

 

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