President Trump “called-off” a scheduled, June 5 visit from the Philadelphia Eagles, champions of Super Bowl LII. Called off is quoted because it’s sort of like when an elementary school kid invites everyone in his or her class to their birthday party, discovers only a couple intend to come, then cancels the gala. Many of the Eagles said they would not participate in the visit, prompting Trump to host a patriotism event instead.
Trump has been very outspoken about the NFL kneeling issue. He’s quoted as saying players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem should be “fired” or “suspended.” The New England Patriots did visit the White House after their Super Bowl victory in 2017. That could be due to the friendship between Trump and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Several Patriots players did however, refuse, including Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount.
The President has blurred the lines between sports and politics since taking office 17 months ago. He has taken on the NFL over its national anthem protests, criticized NCAA athletes who did not thank him for coming to their aid and attacked NBA superstars on Twitter.
Other notable teams that did accept Trump’s invitations are the 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins and 2017 Houston Astros. Although two Puerto Rican-born players, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa, were absent. The 2018 University of Alabama National College Football Championship team also visited the White House. While championship teams have visited the White House dating back at least 50 years, the decision to accept an invitation from Trump has become politically perilous.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
The Eagles appear to be a much closer team than most. Their locker room seems to be in as good of shape as any Super Bowl-winning team in recent years. It’s no secret they also have a few, very outspoken players on their team, including the notably silent Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins recently held up signs in silence while being interviewed by multiple reporters. One of the signs simply said, “You’re not listening”. Others listed statistics for murdered and incarcerated African Americans.
Fox News Channel stirred the controversy by airing video of Eagles players kneeling to pray several minutes before the anthem was played. In fact, no Eagle kneeled this entire year, although several did stand with raised fists in protest while the anthem was performed. The network was criticized by players such as Chris long who said, “Fox News used the faith of Christian men dishonestly to push an agenda. That wasn’t an “error”, but intentional and strategic.” Fox News later issued an apology.
CNN dropped the media ball, too, after political analyst April Ryan was forced to backtrack on claims the President was “heckled and booed” at Tuesday’s White House event after it was reported the ridicule was, in fact, directed at a protester in the crowd. She quickly walked back those comments after learning a heckler in the crowd was asking the President questions, and as a result was booed.
“The booes [sic] were for the heckler,” Ryan said in her tweet. She later deleted the tweet, citing “reporters on the south lawn” for misreporting the events. CNN’s Noah Gray said that Ryan’s tweet was not true. He later shared a picture of the man who was heckled by the crowd and escorted out. Despite her attempts to backtrack, Twitter users fired back at Ryan’s misreporting.
It doesn’t appear the trend of teams not accepting the President’s offer to visit the White House will end any time soon, either. LeBron James was quoted as saying the Warriors or the Cavs wouldn’t accept an invitation no matter who won. LeBron was also very critical of Trump last year, calling him a “bum.”