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Cubs working to arrange White House visit before President Obama leaves office

2016 AP YEAR END PHOTOS - Cuban President Raul Castro, right, and U.S. President Barack Obama attend a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. The crowd roared as Obama and Castro entered the stadium and walked toward their seats in the VIP section behind home plate. It was the first game featuring an MLB team in Cuba since the Baltimore Orioles played in the country in 1999. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP, File) NYYE125
2016 AP YEAR END PHOTOS - Cuban President Raul Castro, right, and U.S. President Barack Obama attend a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. The crowd roared as Obama and Castro entered the stadium and walked toward their seats in the VIP section behind home plate. It was the first game featuring an MLB team in Cuba since the Baltimore Orioles played in the country in 1999. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP, File) NYYE125
Published Dec. 6, 2016

President Barack Obama's office is working hard with the Cubs to get the visit scheduled before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

The Cubs have seven weeks to accept the President's offer to visit the White House before he turns the keys over to President-elect Donald Trump.

While it's not the most pressing issue in Washington during the transition, a source with knowledge of the invitation said Obama's office is working hard with the Cubs, but the Cubs said it's going to be a challenge to meet the deadline.

"Obviously the challenging part is with an outgoing president, and now that we're in the offseason, it makes it extremely challenging to coordinate, with the players being on vacation," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Monday. "It's been difficult to do."

Obama, a self-described White Sox fan, invited manager Joe Maddon during a congratulatory phone call on Nov. 3, the day after their Game 7 World Series win over the Indians. He followed up with a tweet asking: "Want to come to the White House before I leave?" First lady Michelle Obama also tweeted that she has been a Cubs fan "since I was a kid" and that was "incredibly proud" of the Cubs.

But since the invite, Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts has been nominated by Trump as his deputy commerce secretary, so the Cubs could wait until Trump becomes president so he can fete the team himself.

Green said it's a "time-honored tradition" to meet the president and that Ricketts' nomination to the post doesn't factor into the team's decision.

"Regardless of who is in the White House or who may be working for the administration, certainly this has been something that would be viewed as an honor," he said. "It's just a difficult exercise in scheduling. … President Obama made the invitation and we're honored to receive the invitation. Ordinarily, you would look at whenever the team is playing (in Washington) the following season, so you'd have more than enough time to coordinate."

If the Cubs wait to visit during the 2017 season, a natural date would be from June 26-20, when the team travels to Washington for a four-game series. If the Cubs visited before Inauguration Day, they'd be the last championship team honored by Obama in his eight years in office.

"Because of the respect the organization has for the White House and for the president, it's something you'd like to see it we can make it happen," Green said.

Green added there is no firm deadline in place on finalizing the decision. But with the holidays coming up, getting everyone together before the end of the year would be difficult. Some January dates are definitely out as well: Kris Bryant is getting married on Jan. 7, and some of the players will be attending the wedding. The Cubs Convention is on Jan. 13-15, 2017 in Chicago, which Green pointed out is "less than a week before the inauguration."

A winter trip to the White House, however, is not unprecedented. After the White Sox won in 2005, they visited with President George W. Bush on Feb. 13, 2006, just before spring training. But former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen declined to blow off a scheduled vacation, which Bush said he fully understood. "If he's a Caribbean guy, taking a look at the weather forecast up here yesterday would have made me not want to come as well," Bush cracked.

After some early acrimony between the Ricketts family and Trump, Todd Ricketts, along with his brother Pete, the governor of Nebraska, and their parents, Joe and Marlene Ricketts, supported him during the general election.

Chairman Tom Ricketts recently told USA Today he is "more in the middle, but more on the right than the left." During spring training, when Marlene Ricketts gave a $3 million donation to an anti-Trump campaign, Trump tweeted the Ricketts "better be careful, they have a lot to hide."

That prompted Tom Ricketts to respond with a grin: "It's a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom."

On the other side of the political coin, Laura Ricketts, one of the four siblings on the board, was a prominent backer of Hillary Clinton and is involved in the Democratic Party. Cubs vice president Mike Lufrano was formerly a special assistant to president Bill Clinton, while Cubs president Theo Epstein also donated to Clinton and attended a fundraiser in Chicago.

White House visits are mostly photo ops for the president, and attendance by players usually isn't mandatory.

Perhaps the most controversial visit to the White House from a Chicago champ was in 1991, when the Bulls were honored by President George H. Bush after their first title.

Guard Craig Hodges delivered a two-page letter to Bush urging his administration to show more concern for African-Americans, while Michael Jordan snubbed the visit altogether and had to fend off criticism for disrespecting Bush. Jordan later testified in the drug and money-laundering trial of James "Slim" Bouler that he lost $57,000 to Bouler on golf, poker and other gambling during that weekend the Bulls visited the White House.

Obama, a big Bulls fan, honored the Cleveland Cavaliers last month, coincidentally came on the same day he met with Trump after the election. Since Obama is from Chicago he wants to be the one to honor his hometown Cubs. He has hosted three Chicago championship teams during his presidency, and all three were the Blackhawks.