May 21st, 2009
05:38 PM ET
5 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. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Gosh! You think we can have more stories on something really important like FORECLOSURES AND HOW CONGRESS HAS ONCE AGAIN SCREWED US BY PANDERING TO THE BANKS???

    Why aren't you talking about the collusion between the banks and government officials which has caused many honest hardworking people to lose their jobs, homes and retirements?

    Instead, this is what we have to comment on? I am glad we have MSNBC....

    this non-story reeks.

    May 21, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. Andrea Anderson

    Never heard of him.

    May 21, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Cathy in AZ

    I always thought the adult and well mannered thing to do was to accept an invitation to the White House when asked. He should have accepted when President Bush invited him as well.
    Grow up – you play a game and you are invited to meet the President of the United States. Perhaps you would like to quit playing and work for a living!

    May 21, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. amber

    I think the issue is he was disrespectful to Dan Rooney by not going since Dan Rooney has such important ties to the president. It wasn't an issue with bush becase the owner of the steelers wasn't personally involved with Bush like he is Obama.

    If my boss asked me to represent my company in this sort of public recognition I would be expected to participate.

    May 21, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. Rob

    Decline an invitation to the White House and suddenly you're a "jerk" or a "moron" or a "crass and arrogant guy." Oh, brother. What disturbs me is that too many of us Americans regard elected officials as celebrities or even royalty. Generally speaking, they work for us, not the other way around.

    May 21, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. WhoCares?

    I don't care if he goes..His choice for sure.

    His reasoning was that of a 4 year old though.

    May 21, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. Imarriedmysister in TheOleSouth

    Who cares if he stayed home.I just want to see Cheney get what Mussolini got.

    May 21, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. NObama is our downfall

    I didn't know black people were allowed to be against Obama????

    I'm confused?? Didn't they vote for him like 95%?

    James Harrison hasn't been drinking his Kool-Aid!!!!

    May 21, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. ds

    Welcome to a new low in the right wing paranoia about liberal bias in the media

    May 21, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. MLH

    What's the big deal? Why is this political? Who cares if a private citizen doesn't want to go to the White House to meet the president?

    May 21, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. Chris in MI

    It's a tradition, moron. I think you've been hit too many times. Might want to consider an MRI...

    May 21, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  12. Faz

    Everyone is talking about this because of the reason he gave for not going otherwise, it would have been a none story. Some of you should watch ESPN more.

    May 21, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Willy Brown

    James you ain't missing anything special there, just a guy in a suit too big for him.

    May 21, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. Neilz

    Slow news day? C'mon! Who cares? "Cheesus" would be more newsworthy than this.

    May 21, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. Nikole

    No one cares that he declined to go. His reasoning was rather stupid though. The WINNERS have always gone to the White House. Why would the losers go?

    May 21, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  16. dumb

    The media didn't even make this big of a deal when we was arrested for beating up his girlfriend last year during the offseason... This guy must be dull

    May 21, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. G

    What an idiot its a tradition to invite the winning team. Someone thinks awfully highly of themself!

    May 21, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. Working New Yawker

    So, this guy (as someone predicts) is going to be in jail within the next ten years. That should get him a Cabinet nomination. He's holding out for a bigger invite. And, he'd be bringing a wealth of experience to the White House, a refreshing change. I wonder how quickly he can spend my grandchildren's money?

    May 21, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh snap! I agree with him. Period.

    May 21, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. Sweet P

    I can understand him turning down Bush.....but turning down President Barack Obama? This guy should be thrown out of the NFL.

    May 21, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. Tesa Pinckney

    Okay.why invite a team that did not win the Superbowl.............. harrison is up for trade anyone want him????

    May 21, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. Tom in CA

    This illustrates that Harrison is a loser. What a jerk! Cut him!

    May 21, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. Andy

    This is a non-issue....can we just PLEASE give a few more Billon to Bank of America???.....we haven't seen anything given away in a few days....c'mon with the photo op....give the White House to Citigroup.....

    May 21, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. kman821

    I think it's high time to just dump the asinine "tradition" of inviting pro sports "winners" to the White house. What actual national significance is there to a professional athlete's accomplishments? Answer: None, beyond some mindless entertainment and a means of generating advertising revenue for big corporations.

    May 21, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. George

    Here is a man with a back bone, most people would jello to the white if invited and asked to be there by 3:00am.

    May 21, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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