The Super Bowl champion Eagles have an invitation to visit the White House in June. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how many of them show up, with one Philadelphia player saying Thursday that there are “a lot of guys who feel passionate about not going.”
Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters offered specifics, saying in a statement Thursday, “President Trump looks forward to welcoming the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House on June 5 to celebrate their Super Bowl LII win.”
Last month, an Eagles spokesman said that the team had “been in contact with White House representatives and are currently discussing the logistics of an upcoming visit to Washington.” The team offered a similar statement Thursday, this time noting the date and the possibility of “a visit to the White House.”
Normally, any White House trip by a championship squad, while it might be missing some players, would include the team owner, but an appearance by Jeffrey Lurie could be awkward given comments of his published last month that were sharply critical of Trump.
In remarks the New York Times reported it took from a recording of an October meeting between NFL owners, players and officials, Lurie was said to have told attendees that many owners “have no interest in supporting President Trump.” He reportedly added “This is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one [expletive] disastrous presidency.”
Trump angered many NFL players in September when he used a rally in Alabama as a setting for sharp criticism of pregame protests during the national anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag,” the president told the crowd, “to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”
Whereas the protests had been relatively scattered before then, Trump’s comments led to mass demonstrations the following weekend, including a few in which owners such as Lurie joined their players. As last season went along, the protests died down, but the issue remained a vexing one for the league, and the October meeting at which Lurie spoke was meant to come to some sort of solution.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was among the most consistent protesters, although he eschewed kneeling during the anthem in favor of standing with his fist raised and led a bloc of players who were negotiating with the NFL on the issue of protests. Eventually, the league agreed to donate approximately $90 million to social justice-related causes supported by many players, and while that was not contingent on a complete cessation of the protests, Jenkins said he would end his own demonstrations.
However, Jenkins has been among several Philadelphia players who have stated that they have no interest in visiting Trump’s White House, and on Thursday he said (via NJ.com), “We as a team are still kind of discussing what [a visit] looks like, but visiting the White House is not something I’m interested in at this time.”
“From a team standpoint, some guys have dreamed of being able to win a championship and take a visit to the White House, and we’re not trying to deny that to anybody,” Jenkins added (via NBC Philadelphia). “There’s also a lot of guys who feel passionate about not going, and so you have to try to find a balance that’s fair for everybody.”
Other Eagles who have said publicly they wouldn’t accompany the team on a White House visit, as long as Trump is in office, include defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Torrey Smith, who since has been traded to the Carolina Panthers. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe told TMZ Sports last month that he, too, would not go, but his stated reasoning was that he had “already been before,” having won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013, while Barack Obama was president.
The Cubs, following their World Series triumph in November 2016, were unusually quick to book a White House visit, making sure to do so before Obama left office the following January. That had much to with Obama’s status as a strong supporter of Chicago sports teams, while the Warriors, who won the NBA title last June, made it clear that they were opposed to Trump’s statements and policies.
That position, as expressed by Golden State star Stephen Curry, resulted in Trump making a show on Twitter of rescinding his invitation to the team. Other major professional sports teams who won championships last year, though, including the Patriots, Astros and Penguins, made the traditional trips to receive congratulations from the president.
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