On a Wednesday afternoon late final month, at a ceremony on the White Home South Garden, President Trump launched a number of new members of the President’s Council on Sports activities, Health and Vitamin.
Former Yankees nice Mariano Rivera, the previous operating again Herschel Walker and the gold-medalist seashore volleyball participant Misty Could-Treanor had been all known as out. Then President Trump acknowledged one other group of athletes who occurred to be there that day, and had been receiving an honor the Philadelphia Eagles, the Golden State Warriors and a number of other different championship-winning groups haven’t in a polarized period, when a beforehand innocent photo-op with the chief of the free world has develop into a fraught exercise.
“And we’ve got the Wake Forest N.C.A.A. championship tennis workforce right here,” Mr. Trump stated.
The boys’s squad had gained the nationwide title barely per week earlier than, defeating Ohio State on their residence advanced in Winston-Salem, N.C. But right here they had been on the White Home simply eight days later. How’s that?
“Patrick is again there,” Mr. Trump stated, calling out maybe his favourite Demon Deacon.
Mr. Trump isn’t an N.C.A.A. tennis junkie. “Patrick” is Patrick Hannity, son of Sean Hannity, the Fox Information host. He’s a redshirt freshman who beforehand starred at Chilly Spring Harbor Excessive College on Lengthy Island, the place he was a New York state finalist in doubles. He performed solely within the fall this season, compiling information of Three-Four this season in singles and Three-Four in doubles, however was invaluable when it got here to getting his workforce into the Oval Workplace.
Sean Hannity “helped instigate the talks” that led to the White Home go to, a Wake Forest spokesman confirmed.
“That was the driving power,” the spokesman, Dan Wallace, added.
It’s not uncommon for the N.C.A.A. males’s tennis champion to obtain a White Home go to. Latest title-winners from Southern California, U.C.L.A. and the College of Virginia all took half in presidential fetes. Nevertheless, these visits occurred throughout days reserved for quite a few N.C.A.A. champions in less-heralded sports activities, like one in November 2017 that featured 18 teams.
Under the current administration, White House visits are by no means assured. Shortly after Wake Forest’s trip, Mr. Trump disinvited the Eagles having learned that fewer than 10 members of the team planned to show up. Last year, Mr. Trump appeared to pull a “you can’t break up with me, because I’m breaking up with you” on the Golden State Warriors after they won the N.B.A. championship. A visit this year has already been ruled out.
The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team did not visit after its 2017 championship, while Villanova (another Philadelphia team) has yet to receive an invitation more than two months after cutting down the nets, a spokesman confirmed. The South Carolina women’s basketball team declined a White House invitation last year.
If not for the Hannity connection, the Wake Forest men’s tennis team would seem an unlikely choice for a special visit hosted by a president whose administration has planned a crackdown on foreign students who overstay their visas as part of a broader drive to tighten immigration. The six Wake Forest players whose singles matches counted in the championship round hail from Croatia, Cyprus, Tunisia, Israel, Uzbekistan and Germany, according to the roster.
Sean Hannity did not respond to a request for comment. Though not a White House official, Hannity has been an informal adviser and sounding board for President Trump, according to The New York Times and other reports. The White House did not return a request for comment.
During a roughly quarter-hour Oval Office visit that afternoon, which included one-on-one photo opportunities, Mr. Trump was interested in which Wake Forest player had the biggest serve, Wake Forest’s spokesman said. He was told it was Christian Seraphim, a redshirt senior listed as 6-foot-10. At the South Lawn ceremony, Seraphim got a shout-out from the president.
Then Mr. Trump extended another privilege to the team that most visitors don’t receive.
“We have a beautiful tennis court,” he said, “if you guys want to practice.”
Additional reporting by Ken Belson.