Not every professional athlete in the United States, after winning a major sports championship, has to make a snarky comment when it comes to White House visits.
Some of them, in fact, want to be invited.
That was the case for UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington: The professional MMA fighter paid President Donald Trump a visit at the White House on Thursday and brought his championship belt with him.
Covington traveled to the White House alongside UFC President Dana White and tweeted a photo of himself with Trump.
He wrote on Twitter, “Like @POTUS @realDonaldTrump always says: Promises made. Promises kept. Pleasure to finally meet you Mr. President. Thank you for always putting America first! #maga #GreatAmericanWinningMachine.”
Like @POTUS @realDonaldTrump always says: Promises made. Promises kept. Pleasure to finally meet you Mr. President. Thank you for always putting America first! #maga #GreatAmericanWinningMachine ?? pic.twitter.com/yYZWkdd5wS
— Colby Covington (@ColbyCovMMA) August 2, 2018
Although there is a tradition in the United States in which major high-level professional (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL), Olympic and NCAA athletes meet with the president after their teams win a championship, this had not been the case for the UFC, as it is a newer league.
This happened because Covington made it clear he wanted to meet with Trump if at all possible.
When the Philadelphia Eagles refused to go to the White House back in June, Covington criticized that team for it. He also praised Trump after winning his welterweight title.
“I did everything I said I was going to do,” Covington told PennLive. “I told everybody I was going to make the welterweight division great again, and now I’m going to celebrate the way a real American should celebrate winning a world title, and that is by going to the White House and seeing Mr. Donald Trump and putting [the belt] on his desk.”
“Unlike the ‘Filthadelphia’ Eagles,” he added pointedly, “disrespecting our country’s flag by kneeling for the national anthem.”
The UFC fighter, who has “#MAGA” in his Twitter profile, was able to do just as he wished on Thursday.
He is the first UFC champion to visit the White House to celebrate a championship. He did it not because he felt obligated to attend — but because he actually wanted to be there. Covington was excited to meet the president. He wasn’t looking for a political stunt and he didn’t speak about the president in a derogatory manner as other athletes have in the past; he simply took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that will never be presented to the majority of professional athletes or Americans in general, period.
In that sense, Covington should be a role model for other athletes who earn the opportunity to come to the White House and meet the president. He showed respect for the office of the presidency and to the country by going to meet with Trump.
Covington can now add his name to this list because he did not let partisan politics get in the way.
Covington can now add his name to that list because he did not let partisan politics get in the way.
If only others were open-minded enough to do the same.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.