BOSTON (CBS) – As the tours of historic Fenway Park rolled on Tuesday, so did the chatter surround the Red Sox skipper.
“It’s still a privilege to go to the White House,” says fan Adrianne Ekhaml, visiting from San Diego. “Just ignore the guy that’s there.”
She’s talking, of course, about manager Alex Cora’s decision to skip Thursday’s World Series celebration invite from President Donald Trump.
Cora – a native of Puerto Rico – believes the President didn’t help his native land nearly enough after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and then publicly insulted Puerto Ricans for good measure.
“I no longer think we can separate politics, sports and public relations,” says Professor Gregory Payne, chairman of communications studies at Emerson College.
Dr. Payne says the intertwining of those three things is the evolution of our “celebrity culture.”
He argues that Cora is simply staying true to his identity, and his choice has very little downside.
“He’s a leader,” says Payne. “I think people – even if they don’t agree with his position – will still say ‘He has a right to make this statement.’”
Cora is hardly the first Boston sports figure to steer clear of Pennsylvania Avenue and cause some ripples in water.
The public was seemingly less understanding several years ago, when Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas declined a White House visit – blasting both Democrats and Republicans for eroding the Constitutional freedoms of Americans.
Many politicians ducked.
But such crossovers have now become part of the landscape.
Today, Alex Cora got some props from a Massachusetts Democrat. “I think he’s exactly right,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told TMZ Sports. “It’s still bad over there, and so he didn’t want to go to the White House for a photo op. But he did it in a very respectful manner.”
“And he told his players ‘Hey, if you want to go – go,’” says Professor Payne. “I think that’s a real distinction. He probably didn’t want it to be a big deal – but it is.”
It is hard to ignore that ALL of the players who have chosen NOT to go to the White House are men of color.
But the professor doesn’t think Americans will see this as a racial issue, and believes folks will support Cora for sticking to his guns.
“He’s proud of his choice,” says Payne. “And I think his response is “Well, if you don’t like it – okay fine. But this is who I am.’”
The Red Sox front office is still framing this as a matter of personal choice – not politics.
But as Sox fan Kyle Grosz stood outside the old ballpark this evening, he just wanted to get back to baseball. “Again, I just think it’s more important what he does inside Fenway than what he’s doing at the White House,” he said.
When asked if any of this has triggered any discord in the clubhouse, Cora has responded “not at all” – and several players have agreed.