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Will Trump Welcome Canadian NBA Champs To White House

Now that the dust has settled and the NBA Finals are over, the Toronto Raptors can set out about the most important decision of the postseason.

The Raptors, the first basketball champion to hail from a non-U.S. address, have, what appears to be, a vexing issue on their hands, within days of claiming their title.

The Toronto players, coaches and management have to decide whether to be feted by one North American head of state or two.

That the Raptors will be welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a fait accompli.

In case you didn’t notice, Canadians from Victoria to Halifax went slightly bonkers earlier this month when the Raptors wrested the professional basketball crown away from the defending two-time champion Golden State Warriors.

Our good-natured friends and neighbors to the North are too polite to say it or even suggest such a thing. But you have to figure the Raptors’ victory is viewed in Canada as a form of retribution for the way U.S. teams have seized the Stanley Cup.

Hockey’s holy grail has been the exclusive province of U.S. based squads for 25 years and the Canadian provinces are not happy.

Of course, the delicious irony in all this is just as there are few U.S. born players on the rosters of most National Hockey League teams, there were no Canadians on the Raptors roll call.

In the NBA’s quest to go global, there is a Spaniard, a Cameroonian and even a player from the Republic of the Congo in the Raptors’ locker room. But there’s not one Canadian on the Toronto roster.

That fact doesn’t seem to matter to Trudeau, who has already invited the Raptors to bask in the glow of victory in Ottawa.

The open question is whether Trudeau’s U.S. counterpart, President Donald Trump, will extend the same courtesyto the Raptors.

It seems like a no brainer. After all, Trump’s predecessor, former President George H. W. Bush, welcomed the Blue Jays to the White House after they won the World Series in 1992.

But, the president has traded insults with the Warriors and the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the Super Bowl two years ago.

Depending on whom you talk to, the teams either declined Rose Garden invitations or were never extended them in the first place by Trump.

Again, depending on who does the talking, the fact that players from the Eagles and Warriors were critical of Trump either played no role in their not going to the White House or were the major factors.

Earlier this year, the Boston Red Sox, the reigning World Series winners, split along racial and cultural lines, over whether to visit Trump.

As for the Raptors, Trudeau asked Trump about a White House visit last week. Trump played coy, leaving it up to the team to decide.

Toronto forward Danny Green, however, was definitive, saying the chances of the Raptors accepting an invitation were a "hard no."

And who says sports and politics don’t mix.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.