There was God Bless America, but no Swoop the Eagle. The U.S. Marine Band was there, but neither quarterback Nick Foles, nor head coach Doug Pederson, nor any member of the 2018 Super Bowl winning team was at the White House Tuesday for what was to be a celebration of the Philadelphia Eagles victory.
Instead, the team’s fans gathered on the South Lawn heard a selection of patriotic songs, after President Trump dis-invited the team, when it became apparent only a handful of players were likely to show up to the event, as another battle in the unending culture wars played out over social media.
On Monday night, Trump tweeted that after being invited to the White House, “only a small number of players decided to come and we canceled the event.” Then apparently referring to the NFL’s new policy of allowing players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem rather allowing them to take a knee in protest on the field, Trump said “Staying in the locker room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”
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
Several players, following the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick have taken a knee to protest the recent spate of shootings involving police and black men along with other issues — which Trump has seized on, seeing a political opportunity in this midterm year.
But, significantly, none of the Eagles took a knee in protest during the 2017 season. Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins did, however, engage in a raised-fist protest at points during the 2017 season and, at one point, Jenkins was joined by Rodney McLeod and the two men were supported by fellow Eagle Chris Long. Jenkins and McLeod are black and Long is white.
The NFL Players Association tweeted Tuesday morning it was “disappointed” in the president’s decision, and that “NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place.”
At Tuesday’s event, which Trump called “even bigger than we had anticipated,” he said that “we stand to honor our military, and to honor our country, and to remember our fallen heroes who never made it back home.”
Trump added, “we stand to honor our fellow citizens, and our magnificent Constitution,” overlooking, perhaps, the First Amendment which protects various rights associated with protesting.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday just prior to the White House event that “the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans.” She also called the apparent decision of many of the team’s players not to attend the event with Trump “a political stunt by the Eagles organization.”