WASHINGTON––Planning for an event honoring the University of Oklahoma’s women’s gymnastics team, as well as other NCAA national champions, was disrupted when the Columbia University fencing team announced plans to confront President Donald Trump on Friday.
The OU gymnasts made the trip to the White House after winning the team’s fourth national title earlier this year. But prior to their arrival, the co-ed Columbia team announced plans to give the President a letter that rebuked the Trump administration’s stance on gender issues, according to the Washington Post.
Secret Service told Columbia University athletes before a photo-op with Trump that the team would not be allowed to give the President the letter, according to USA Today. It is unclear exactly what happened during the meeting, as the White House made a last-minute decision to reduce the number of reporters allowed in the event.
“They're real athletes, I can tell you. It's a tremendous achievement,” said Trump following the meeting with the teams. “And we're bringing many of them over to the Oval Office. I guess all of them. So far, nobody has turned that one down.”
For OU junior and floor exercise competitor Jordan Draper, this was her first time meeting Trump, as well as her first time in Washington. The team previously met with the President in 2017 after winning their third national title before Draper attended OU.
Members of OU’s team met the President, who Draper said spoke and joked with the team for several minutes. The team was also able to take a picture with Trump and tour the White House.
“It felt great to be recognized by the President,” said Draper. “It was awesome to get the team back together to celebrate again and commemorate all the hard work we put into last season to earn that national championship.”
Draper said she did not speak to the athletes from Columbia University, and she had “no idea” about the letter.
“It was an honor to be invited to the White House, and they treated us with respect and were super congratulatory,” said Draper.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) was one of three congressmen attending the ceremony at the White House. Although he is from Oklahoma, Mullin did not meet with the gymnasts, but with wrestling championship team Penn State, as well as individual wrestling champions.
“As Chairman of the Congressional Wrestling Caucus, I was honored to attend NCAA Collegiate National Champions Day at the White House today along with the NCAA wrestling champions. I applaud President Trump for recognizing these students’ success and the benefits sports bring to our lives,” said Mullin in a statement.
In addition to the OU women’s gymnastics team taking home gold at the 2019 NCAA National Championships, the program finished last season undefeated with a 32-0 record.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.