Celebs Who Turned Down White House Invites

Washington, D.C. might be the seat of American politics, but that doesn't mean that every American is keen to be invited to the nation's capital, even when they have been offered one of the highest civilian honors available by their president. New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick refused to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former president Donald Trump in 2021, as The New York Times reported, because the deadly Capitol building riots had taken place only the week before.

And he's not the only one who turned down an honor from Trump: Bill Gates revealed in an interview with STAT that he declined a job offer from the former reality star. Trump was talking to Gates about his ideas for a universal flu vaccine (as the Microsoft creator was prophetically worried about the possibility of a global pandemic) when he proposed that Gates fill the vacant role of director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "He probably himself didn't know if he was serious," Gates added. "It was a friendly thing. He was being friendly." Keep reading to find out which other stars got formally invited to Pennsylvania Avenue but decided to say no.

One Direction disappointed the Obamas

In 2012, One Direction had emerged as one of the most popular musical acts in the world after bursting onto the American charts with their break-out hit "What Makes You Beautiful." The five boys became a band in 2010 and came third in the British singing competition "The X Factor," which catapulted them to fame and created a passionate fanbase of "Directioners." Their popularity in the UK even led to them performing at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. And they had one super fan in the White House: as sources told The Mirror, Barack Obama's daughter Malia reportedly loved the band at the time.

When the First Lady invited One Direction to perform at their home, however, the boy band had to turn down Michelle Obama because they were so busy. A representative for the band told Politico that the boys were just too busy for an unexpected trip and had already committed to a busy touring schedule that would take them across America. After their rejection made headlines, they released another statement insisting that "it was scheduling that hindered the band from visiting the White House," and suggesting that One Direction could visit later.

In 2023, Niall Horan performed in the White House as a solo artist for St Patrick's Day, representing his home country of Ireland and confirming that Joe Biden always had a favorite member of One Direction. "It's an honor to be invited," he tweeted at the time.

Matt Birk took a stand over abortion

After the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2013, starting center Matt Birk rejected Barack Obama's invitation to the White House over his views on abortion.

When he was asked about the White House trip on KFAN-AM, the vocally anti-abortion player made it clear why he didn't go. "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 claimed, per NFL, pointing out Planned Parenthood's role in delivering reproductive health care across the nation. "I am Catholic. I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that," he continued. "I couldn't endorse that in any way."

As his critics pointed out, however, Birk wasn't completely right about what Obama had actually said at the 2013 Planned Parenthood Gala. In reality, the president thanked Planned Parenthood for hosting him and ended his speech by stating, "God bless America." His appearance at an event that promoted reproductive freedom was still too much for the Catholic football star, however. Birk's beliefs later led him to pursue a political career himself, joining Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen in the race to be governor of Minnesota on a ticket that ultimately lost to the Democratic incumbent.

Chris Long decounced Donald Trump

Chris Long stuck to his beliefs when the Super Bowl champion didn't go to Donald Trump's White House with the other Eagles in 2017, revealing to the press how much he cared about his son's perception of him. "My son grows up and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is, I don't want him to say, 'Hey, dad, why'd you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?" Long explained to Green Stripe News, alongside fellow Patriot Devin McCourty, stating that he had to act with his conscience.

He also clashed on Twitter with banker and Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn, as USA Today reported, pointing out how Trump had praised white supremacists marching in Charlottesville. "Who were the fine people on the side of the Nazis and KKK that gathered in my hometown the day a terrorist put 20 ppl in the hospital?" Long asked. "Why didn't you immediately denounce them?" He insisted that by failing to explicitly condemn the far-right groups, Trump was either courting votes from bigots or revealing his own true beliefs. "Either way, no convo needed," the player declared.

Long was happy to accept former president Barack Obama's praise for his social activism, however, when Obama tweeted about how Long had donated his whole salary from 2017 to academic scholarships for the underprivileged in Charlottesville. "I was honored to hear from somebody like that," the Patriot told reporters, per USA Today.

Elton John let down his superfan Trump

Elton John might be one of Donald Trump's favorite musicians but his team shot down claims that the singer was going to perform at Donald Trump's inauguration after Anthony Scaramucci told the BBC that John's presence would prove that the Trump administration cared about gay rights, per CNN. "He will NOT be performing at Trump's Inauguration!" a spokeswoman for John insisted in an email.

John, who had previously played the piano at Trump's 2005 wedding to Melania, was tactful in his letter to the former TV star. As The New York Times reported, John rejected the offer but also wished him luck with his presidential term. But he was less polite at a 2016 event to fundraise for HIV research, according to Mic, where he admitted that the idea of Trump as America's president made him "fear for the world, globally, with the AIDS situation." The musician added: "He'll marginalize people. He's already doing it."

John had already intervened to stop the Republican from using songs like "Rocket Man" and "Tiny Dancer" at his presidential rallies in the lead-up to the election. He explained to The Guardian that it felt inappropriate, refusing to insult Trump personally but clarifying: "I'm not a Republican in a million years." John suggested that he use a right-wing country star like Ted Nugent instead. In 2022, however, the musician was happy to perform for Joe Biden at the White House and be presented with the National Humanities Medal.

Michael Jordan skipped the president to play golf

After winning the 1991 NBA finals, Michael Jordan turned down an invitation from George H.W. Bush and played golf instead. "I didn't want to go. I had something else to do," he told Playboy (via Ball Is Life), adding that the other Bulls were aware he wasn't attending.

The legendary basketball star wasn't openly critical of Bush or the Republican party. In fact, when he was asked to endorse a Democratic candidate in 1990 and declined, Jordan explained his thought process with a quip: "Republicans buy shoes, too." In an ESPN documentary, years later, he explained that he never had time for activism or politics in the NBA. "I was focused on my craft," Jordan added. "Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That's where my energy was." The player insisted that he didn't make political statements in those days.

Another Bull had a different explanation for Jordan missing the White House meeting, however. Craig Hodges, who had played with Jordan in the 1991 and 1992 finals, pointed out that he went on to play golf with Democrat president Bill Clinton. "You know, MJ is not publicly political but he can handle his affairs," he told Respect magazine in 2017. "When he didn't come to the White House, it was a statement." Hodges explained that Jordan wasn't reprimanded by sponsors because he was such a big name at the time. "But I understood where he was coming from and that Bush wasn't his homie."

Moby mocked Donald Trump online

In 2016, the musician Moby claimed on Instagram that Donald Trump's team was looking for performers for his inauguration and a booking agent had reached out to him to see if he wanted the gig. "Hahahahaha, wait, Hahahaha, really?" he wrote with understandable confusion, given how Moby had been openly critical of Trump's campaign in the run-up to the election and had predicted that the Republican would be an inexperienced failure. "I guess I'd DJ at an inaugural ball if as payment #trump released his tax returns," he joked, poking fun at the president's shady financial records.

Moby didn't leave the president alone after that revelation. In an interview with radio host Kyle Meredith, he alleged that friends in the CIA had asked him to post on Instagram about Trump colluding with the Russian government, which had supposedly made the Republican very unpopular in the US government. And in 2019, the techno musician also raised eyebrows by claiming that Trump had been the victim of a dubious prank from him and his friends back in the day. At a party on Staten Island in 2001, Moby was reportedly dared to touch the famous businessman with a particular part of his body. "So I pulled my flaccid penis out of my pants and I knob-touched Donald Trump," he told Vice, joking that "the only person I've ever knob-touched in my entire life is our utterly corrupt current president of the United States."

Manny Ramirez just didn't show

Manny Ramirez was one of the MLB's most idiosyncratic baseball stars. So when he skipped out on a meeting with George W. Bush at the White House in 2008, after the Red Sox won the World Series the previous year, many baseball fans wrote it off as just another example of Ramirez's antics.

As Sports Illustrated noted, his misadventures included stealing bats or clothes from his teammates, spiking their shots with Viagra, and losing his paychecks (or on one occasion, leaving a paycheck behinin his cowboy boots at the clubhouse.) "I think because people looked at him as kind of goofy at times, that gets lost in the fact of how serious he was about his craft," one executive for the Cleveland Indians told The Athletic. But some of his antics were less popular with fans. In 2003, Ramirez was caught drinking at a bar with a New York Yankee when he was supposed to be recovering from acute pharyngitis. He also instigated fights, held up a game to search for a $15,000 diamond earring that was knocked out, and didn't show up to All-Star workouts in 2001 with the dubious excuse that his grandmother had died.

That incident gave Bush an easy joke when the Red Sox player didn't explain why he snubbed the White House in 2008, as ESPN reported. In reaction to Ramirez's conspicuous absence, Bush speculated: "I guess his grandmother died again. Just kidding. Tell Manny I didn't mean it."

Steph Curry rejected Trump

Steph Curry made waves when he declined an invitation to Donald Trump's White House in 2017. Curry, who has been praised as one of the greatest shooters in the history of the league, won the NBA finals with the Golden State Warriors.

He had previously told the Mercury News that he didn't vote for Trump and disagreed with his policies, adding: "I feel like if you know who I am, you know what I stand for, and I can live with that." So when it came time for Trump to welcome the winning team to Washington, D.C., there was a lot of speculation over whether Curry would actually go with his team. "My views haven't changed at all," Curry told reporters, per the Mercury News. "... I don't want to go. That's my nucleus of my belief."

Clearly Trump took Curry's hesitation as an insult, as he reacted on Twitter by rescinding the offer completely. "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team," the president declared. "Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!" The other Warriors stood by Curry in an official statement, stating that they valued the right to free speech. "We have decided that we'll constructively use our trip to the nation's capital in February to celebrate equality," they wrote. Other athletes like LeBron James backed Curry up by pointing out how ridiculous it looked to take back an invitation after someone had already turned it down.

Kevin Durant supported his teammate

Although Steph Curry made headlines in 2017 by rejecting Donald Trump's invitation to the White House, another Golden State Warrior also made his opinions about the president's offer very clear.

When TMZ asked if he approved of how LeBron James had been criticizing Trump throughout his journey to the White House, Kevin Durant gave an affirmative response: "Hell yeah, hell yeah. That's how it's supposed to be. We don't f*** with him." The player, who is known for his philanthropy and donations to universities, is a Washington native but had no intention of visiting the new commander-in-chief due to his own political beliefs.

"I don't respect who's in office right now. I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that," Durant told ESPN, admitting that he couldn't speak for the rest of the team but expected them to reach a similar conclusion. "That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me." Durant also praised athletes like Colin Kaepernick for standing by their beliefs and spoke about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that had turned deadly. "I feel ever since he's got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided, and it's not a coincidence," the player stated. "... For us to move forward, we need more athletes and people of power and influence to come out and speak."

Larry Bird joked that Reagan should come to him

Larry Bird had a unique career as one of the most-lauded basketball players of all time. After initially dropping out of college and becoming a street maintenance worker picking up garbage back in his Indiana hometown, scouts coaxed him back to college where he developed a legendary rivalry with Magic Johnson and ended up playing for the Boston Celtics. He even made NBA history by being the only player named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and eventually Executive of the Year after he retired.

While the basketball player was always known for trash-talking on the court, he's kept his mouth closed about his political views (even when his brother was running for a Democratic seat.) When some of the 1984 Celtics didn't show up to meet Reagan at the White House after their winning season, there was speculation about their motivation. According to the Boston Globe, Bird famously quipped, "If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me." The team hadn't been given much notice about the White House invitation and Bird had been busy celebrating all night long, going from a team party at a bar to an after-party at the house of a Celtics executive and then doing an early morning radio interview. No wonder Bird wasn't ready to get on a plane to Washington with his teammates – he had to save that energy for the game.

Angel Reese felt insulted by Jill Biden

Angel Reese sparked a lot of discussion in 2023 – and not just for her impressive basketball skills. The LSU star player was widely criticized for taunting Iowa's Caitlin Clark with a John Cena-inspired gesture in the recent NCAA women's basketball final, even though Clark had previously used it herself in a different game and had been praised for it (even by John Cena himself).

Fellow athletes, like former quarterback Robert Lee Griffin III, pointed out that there seemed to be far more outrage when a Black player like Reese pulled the same stunt. The controversy continued when the First Lady herself weighed in: Jill Biden confirmed that she would be inviting LSU to the White House since they were the winning team but added that "Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game." The Iowa team rejected the invitation.

Reese responded with laughing emojis on Twitter and made it clear that she would be turning down the offer even after the First Lady amended her statement. "If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House," Reese stated on the "I AM ATHLETE" podcast. She also implied that Biden should have supported the LSU team as a fellow woman. "We'll go to the Obamas. We'll see Michelle, we'll see Barack," she quipped. Although the player later walked back her comments, we'll see if she actually makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.