WASHINGTON — The traditional White House reception honoring sports champions is a largely politics-free affair. The president gives a speech about the team’s success on and off the field, the team’s coach or captain gives the president a jersey, they snap a few pictures, exchange hugs and handshakes and get on with their day.
But politics still occasionally hangs over the event, as ex-Minnesota Vikings center and St. Paul native Matt Birk told KFAN Thursday morning:
“I wasn’t there,” [when Obama honored the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday] Birk told The Power Trip. “I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.'”
Birk, who also took a public stance during the recent gay-rights movements that swung through our country last year, is a very open and public Catholic and claims that he took offense to these comments that were made by President Obama. So much so, that he declined a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and be honored by the President at the White House.
“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,” Birk explained. “I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.”
The remark came during the pleasantries at the end of Obama’s speech to a Planned Parenthood conference in April.
Before leaving the podium, Obama said, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you.”
Birk isn’t the first athlete to decline a White House invite because of politics. Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas skipped his team’s 2012 White House reception because he believes, “government has grown out of control.”
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.