Controversy has hit the Winter Olympics before the torch has been lit in South Korea, as four U.S. Olympians — plus one “furious” ice skater who didn’t end up making the cut — preempted a White House invite from President Donald Trump by turning it down.
Skiers Gus Kenworthy and Lindsey Vonn, and figure skaters Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon have all said publicly that they will not accept a White House invite from the president in the event that they receive one.
Figure skater Ashley Wagner said the same, but she didn’t make Team USA.
Kenworthy and Rippon, who are both openly gay, said that they do not support Trump’s policies and do not want to appear that they do by visiting the White House.
“I am very proud to represent the U.S. but I don’t stand by Trump and his cabinet and their policies,” Kenworthy said. ”I do not want to feign approval for policies that are in place and things that are being pushed at the moment, by going. If I was invited I would decline my spot.”
Rippon said that he felt it is his “duty” not to go.
“Athletes are given a really special platform. It’s our duty, as athletes, to be role models. I won’t go to the White House,” Rippon told the BBC. “I won’t go because I don’t think somebody like me would be welcome there. I know what it’s like to go into a room and feel like you’re not wanted there.”
USA Today reported that Nathan Chen and Ashley Wagner would also decline an invite. In Wagner’s case, it is moot since she did not qualify for Team USA.
Wagner notably missed out on an Olympic appearance, said that she was “furious” about the decision-making by the judges and that she believed that she wasn’t treated fairly.
“I’m furious. I am absolutely furious. I know when I go and I lay it down, and I absolutely left one jump on the table. But for me to put out two programs that I did at this competition, as solid as I skated, and to get those scores, I am furious, and I think deservedly so,” she said. “I am absolutely OK with [judges] being strict on my [jump] rotations […] but you know it needs to be across the board. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s been that way at this event, so we’ll see how things pan out.”
The U.S. Figure Skating selection committee responded that the judges “absolutely made the right call.”
Wagner later changed her tune.
Lindsey Vonn said as early as the beginning of December that she hoped to “represent the people of the United States, not the president.”
When asked if she would accept an invite she replied “Absolutely not.”