May 21st, 2009
05:38 PM ET
6 years ago

Steelers visit White House - without star player

President Obama with Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Hines Ward.
President Obama with Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Hines Ward.

(CNN) – The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers made the traditional winner's trip to the White House Thursday - but one of the team's star players was conspicuously missing from the lineup.

Linebacker James Harrison told reporters earlier this week he'd be a no-show at the White House. He denied any political motivation for his decision. "This is how I feel - if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he would've invited Arizona if they had won," said Harrison, who later joked that he was staying away because the White House was located in a "bad neighborhood."

This isn't the first time Harrison has declined an invitation to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - he turned down an invite from former President Bush after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. "Let me ask you a question," he said Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why is it a big issue now that I'm not going if it wasn't a big issue the last time?

"...Hey, James ain't changed. I guess my profile did, but I didn't change. I'm not going because I don't want to go," he said. "They're making a big deal out of this: 'Oh, my, James Harrison is not going to the White House; he must be a devil worshipper!'"

Teammates have said the linebacker - whose 100-yard touchdown with an interception made Super Bowl history this year - is uncomfortable flying.

Harrison's boss, Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was a major supporter of President Obama's 2008 campaign, and was recently appointed ambassador to Ireland.The president openly rooted for a Steelers victory this year.

–CNN's Xuan Thai contributed to this report


Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (309 Responses)
  1. John Donaldson

    I am hearing all day FORMER Vice President Dick Cheney being referred to as the Vice President. Please address him as former. Thank you John Donaldson, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    May 21, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. IndyVoter

    Like school on Memorial Day...No class! What a crass and arrongant guy. You're right not to go Harrison. Yes. stick to Football, clearly diplomacy and statemanship is not your forte.

    May 21, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. nom deplume, esq.

    I've gone to WH photo op events. It's as exciting as watching grass grow. I decided that I would not do others if invited. Now Harrison refuses the invite for the 2nd time, but since The One is now president, the left decides he must be a moron, republican, or both.

    Could it be he just doesn't want to do it? Or is it his patriotic duty to make The One look good? (we already know where Chris "Man Crush" Mathews comes down on this question.)

    May 21, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Deb from Oklahoma

    Since we're talking NFL let's visit Vick. Why doesn't the Commish police all the bad boys? Who is monitoring child support payments?
    Didn't Mike Tyson box again after his rape convictions? How many chances do the druggers get? Don't get me wrong, I LOVE animals and was broken hearted for months about my Lab died several years ago. However, it is an ANIMAL not a human being. Come on Commish, reset your moral compass, or get out of the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Independent in Virginia

    John Donaldson –

    I think the title is like the President: Once you've been President (or Vice-President), you're always supposed to be referred to as "President [name]" or "Vice-President [name], even after office.

    Maybe you were being sarcastic, but if you weren't – there's your answer.

    May 21, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Bob the Observer

    1. Why do football players get invited to the White House for winning a child's game? What about scholars, musicians - you know, people who actually work?

    2. Why make a big deal about someone that doesn't want to go to the White House? I am amazed that anyone has a problem with his decision.

    3. Why has some airhead mentioned Dick Cheney in this thread?

    4. Why is this news?

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. KJL

    I think the man is old enough to decide whether to go or not. It wasn't an order, it was an invitation.

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Rob

    Lots of comments from folks who don't understand the game of football. It's comical.

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. KC

    Bet he gets audited.

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Jon

    ""Let me ask you a question," he said Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why is it a big issue now that I'm not going if it wasn't a big issue the last time?"

    Well, Mr. Harrison, last time your snub was received as a "ha! ha!" that the partisans on the CNN blog relished. However, when they learned that you weren't a partisan hack, and just a principled oddball, it became an issue for them because you weren't going to pay homage to their anointed one (and, at the same time, hadn't been tossing a particular political jab at the one they hated).

    May 21, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Glenn

    Harrison certainly isn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier when it comes to his decision. It's called the "Winner's invitation" for a reason. The White House has historically hosted winning teams from virtually all sports venues as a symbolic gesture of the nations support of your victory. If I were the coach, I'd double check the padding in his helmet and schedule him for a CAT scan to see if he's clinically messed up in the head or just mental.

    Congratulations Pittsburgh Steelers on your victory, and maybe some day before my grandchildren that aren't born yet grow old and die the Detroit Lions can make that trip.

    May 21, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Jake

    This story belongs on Fox. It's not really news, and they could surely spin this into an interesting conspiracy of some sort.

    May 21, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Barbara Independent in NY

    Someday he'll be able to say to his grandchildren, "I had the opportunity to meet the first African American President of the United States but I chose not to because I'm a jerk".

    May 21, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Matt

    How many jobs does Obama hanging out with celebrities every day produce?

    May 21, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Brad - Ohio

    The guy's "not comfortable flying" but travels to road games every other week? The right wingers in Pittsburgh know otherwise. Why would he want to visit the White House when he can stay home and lisen to Rush Limbaugh fuel the hatred for those he represents?

    May 21, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. Jack

    Why is this a story?
    And why do people insist on politicizing it?
    He's afraid to fly. This trip isn't part of his job. Why should he go?

    May 21, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Bill in California

    ONE LEMMING decides not to go over the cliff, makes a U-turn. Yes, liblings he is definitely a moron, an idiot a jerk!

    May 21, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. cory

    so he doesn't want to go, so what!! i would stay away from that neighborhood of crooks my self. by the way, the left right paradigm doesn't exist, become an infowarrior :)

    May 21, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Pat F

    Just a thought – he might just be a Jehovah's Witness – they do not support secular governments and they won't participate in the military. They believe that at the end of the world, God will supplant all secular governments and rule directly. They equate what they call nationalism with racism.

    He doesn't have to go if he doesn't want to – who gives a rat's?

    May 21, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. The Broker.

    Support for CNN's version of barack Obama. There is a big difference out ther, as CNN will learn eventually.

    May 21, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. RepubliKLANs Are Plain STUPID

    ...as he did with Bush meeting. big deal CNN...this is much ado about nothing and a waste of space reporting.

    no wonder the political ticker is full of junk...with non-news event like this!!!

    May 21, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. Sheryl

    Who cares anyway!!!!! And by the way "The Broker" you are an a%^h*&^

    The Broker. May 21st, 2009 3:29 pm ET

    More Borack Obama's. Steal the White House. Just because they are Black?

    May 21, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Celeste

    Thank You Harrison, the Steelers did a wonderful thing today for our troops! No one cares if you stayed at home.

    May 21, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  24. MAL

    Harrison seems to think it's a privilege for the White House that he should show up, Super Bowl winner or not. The point is that it's the team being granted special privileges for being the national champions, not the other way around – and not him in particular. This just shows what a self-centered moron he is.

    May 21, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Jason

    I can't believe there isn't anything else more significant to report on. Who cares if a football player does not want to go to the white house. Why didn't anyone make a huge deal out of it when he refused last time? Besides, maybe Obama should be spending time creating policies that will fix the economic problems that Bill Clinton created instead of meeting with football players. (Clinton created policies which allowed people with low credit to obtain mortgages, not Bush).

    May 21, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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