Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki donned a “Make America Great Again” cap during a visit to the White House on Monday, outraging critics of President Donald Trump.
Speaking from a White House window, Trump recounted the Nationals’ run to a franchise-first Major League Baseball World Series championship, culminating in their Game 7 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday. The president praised Suzuki’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and called him to the podium. As Suzuki made his way there, he put on the iconic red hat signifying support for Trump.
Looking surprised, Trump gave Suzuki a big hug from behind, saying, “I love him!”
The catcher echoed the sentiment, telling the crowd: “I love you all. I love you all. Thank you.”
Returning to the microphone, Trump said, smiling, “I didn’t know that was going to happen.”
The assembled fans laughed and cheered, and conservative viewers joined the celebration on Twitter.
THIS MADE MY DAY!
President Trumps reaction is priceless
NO ONE EXPECTED THIS
National's Catcher Kurt Suzuki put on his MAGA hat today & got Big hug from President Trump.
Now the left is calling Suzuki a racist. They need to understand people Support President Trump pic.twitter.com/XWmo1UJWRm
— Terrence K. Williams (@w_terrence) November 5, 2019
However, Trump critics were not feeling the feel-good moment.
Liberal political commentator Bill Palmer tweeted and deleted: “Putting on a ‘MAGA’ hat is a form of racist hate speech and an implicit threat of violence. Kurt Suzuki should be banned from baseball. If you don’t like this tweet, f— you.”
Former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien simply said: “Pathetic.”
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) November 4, 2019
Vox’s Aaron Rupar was among a number of commentators who mocked Suzuki for getting “felt up” by the president.
Here's Kurt Suzuki putting on a MAGA hat and getting felt up by Trump pic.twitter.com/8wiQNyf9ya
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 4, 2019
At the same time, edited footage went viral on liberal social media of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg appearing to snub Trump during the team’s celebratory White House visit.
Strasburg left Trump hanging. 😂 pic.twitter.com/LFNQTpCs89
— Rudy Gersten (@DCBarno) November 4, 2019
However, Strasburg shut down the claims, retweeting the post with the caption “#FakeNews.”
— Stephen Strasburg (@stras37) November 4, 2019
The full video shows Strasburg shaking hands with Trump.
Some on the right, like One America News host Liz Wheeler, saw the liberal response as another manifestation of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Your daily reminder that liberals think wearing a MAGA hat is “literal violence” & Kurt Suzuki should be banned from MLB because he supports President Trump.
Choose your party wisely, people.
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) November 5, 2019
Kurt Suzuki leads the way
The Nationals and their fans have displayed some anti-Trump sentiment. The crowd at Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C., booed Trump when he appeared in the stands, with some chanting, “Lock him up.”
Also, on Saturday, Sean Doolittle, a Nationals pitcher and outspoken liberal, declined the White House invitation, citing Trump’s “divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country
Other Nationals players, including star third baseman Anthony Rendon, were absent but it was not immediately clear why.
However, Suzuki was not the only champion to praise Trump on Monday. Ryan Zimmerman, the Washington franchise’s first-ever draft pick in 2005, went beyond the gratitude that other players expressed, voicing support for the Republican president.
“We’d also like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in the world,” he said, handing Trump a Nationals jersey emblazoned with the number 45.
Politics and sports
Trump inserted his own political commentary into the event, jokingly taking aim at a House of Representatives-led impeachment inquiry into his presidency, over accusations he pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.
“America fell in love with Nats baseball. That is all they wanted to talk about, that and impeachment,” he said. “I like Nats baseball much more,” he added, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Despite the political tenor of the remarks, the Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo appeared to praise the team for staying out of political issues.
“When you read about the Washington Nationals, you read about [them] in the sports section and I think that is very important,” he said, noting that the team “unified a region when the region needed unifying the most.”
The team fought back from scoring deficits, overcame a series of injuries and fended off a long list of powerful opponents on the way to capturing their first title last week.
(Reuters contributed to this report)