Several members of the Columbia University fencing team wanted to give President Trump a letter disavowing his administration’s gender equity policies when the group visited the White House on Friday. But according to team captains Elise Gout and Nolen Scruggs, a White House aide told them that the Secret Service discourages visitors from handing items to the president.
According to the Washington Post, the aide took the letter and promised the athletes that they would deliver it to President Trump.
The Columbia athletes, who were part of a White House celebration of 22 NCAA championship teams, reportedly did not express their objections during their brief, direct interactions with the president.
“Secret Service made it pretty clear that something could happen, and I don’t want to find out what that is,” Scruggs said of giving Trump the letter.
"The victory for which you mean to honor us today cannot be separated from the diversity that comprises our team," a portion of the letter read, according to the Post. "We as collegiate fencers have committed our athletic careers to understanding how our individual strengths, irrespective of gender, may be best leveraged for the advancement of the collective. But while ours is a victory born from values of gender equality, yours is one shadowed by continued acts of gender-based prejudice and partisanship."
As the Post notes, the team did take part in a silent protest of Trump’s policies by wearing large white lapel pins, which signify gender equality. Scruggs said the White House aide asked them to remove the pins, but the athletes declined.
Despite being at odds with a number of professional championship teams, Trump has welcomed NCAA championship teams in the past.
“The team was cordial, and nothing was handed to the president,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Post. “White House staff also spoke with members of the team and the coach and extended an invitation for them to come back to the White House to discuss any policy concerns they have.”