Three members of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins decided not to attend an event Tuesday honoring the team at the White House due to political differences with the president.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, defensive tackle Manny Fernandez and guard Bob Kuechenberg skipped the event, which made up for the time the team did not get the chance to go to the White House because, in part, President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal.
The three players spoke with the paper and kept their comments brief, but direct.
"We've got some real moral compass issues in Washington," Langer said. "I don't want to be in a room with those people and pretend I'm having a good time. I can't do that. If that [angers] people, so be it."
Fernandez, for his part, told the paper that his views are "dramatically opposed to the President's."
"Enough said. Let's leave it at that. I hope everyone enjoys the trip who goes."
Kuechenberg said it would be hypocritical for him to be there, the paper reported.
"I don't want to do that. I just don't believe in this administration at all. So I don't belong. Anyone on the left or the right has to respect one man's opinion," he said.
Obama welcomed the former players to the East Room, a periodic occurrence at the White House these days for current sports champions. Four decades ago, however, saluting athletes was not an established tradition. So the men of that historic Dolphins team had not received their due.
Nearly three dozen members of the team received their White House moment, 40 years after they made history by winning 17 games and losing none — an undefeated NFL feat that still stands today.
The faces were still recognizable: Hall of Famers Larry Csonka, the team’s star fullback; quarterback Bob Griese; offensive lineman Larry Little; linebacker Nick Buoniconti; and of course their leader, coach Don Shula.
"I know that some people may be asking why we are doing this after all these years," Obama said. "My answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once."
Though relatively rare, athletes have been known to take political stands and not attend White House ceremonies. This year, Matt Birk, a center for the Baltimore Ravens who is opposed to same-sex marriage, did not join his team when they met Obama.
Little and Griese, spoke to reporters after the event.
"I don't have any thoughts about those guys. I'm just sorry that they weren't here," Griese said. "We had a great day. The White House treated us greatly. Everybody who was here was happy they were here."
The Associated Press contributed to this report