The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in February and were invited to the White House as a celebration with the President of the United States. This has been a regular event as long as I've been watching sports, and it's the same with the NBA, MLB, and the NHL. But as we've seen, this administration has made many things into news that normally would be a 10-minute photo op.
When the New England Patriots went last year, quite a few players including Tom Brady did not attend. The Golden State Warriors chose to skip the event altogether after their title run. Which meant that no matter how you looked at it, the Eagles' visit would make news — especially after Donald Trump got involved with the national anthem controversy.
A handful of NFL players protested police treatment of African-Americans by kneeling during the anthem. Originally, Colin Kaepernick, the first player to protest, decided to sit during the anthem. But a fellow player and vet talked with him about how sitting might be taken, and they came up with kneeling as a matter of respect for the flag and the country while still making a statement. This had pretty much moved out of the news until Trump brought it up at a rally in Alabama where he said he wished the owners would fire the "sons of bitches" who disrespected the flag. This became big news again, and the President pushed the issue quite a bit. The NFL pushed back, but during the off-season they have decided to require players to stand during the anthem or remain in the locker room until after it is played. Supporters of the President took this as a win.
We move to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, and a good number of players came out after the game and said that they would not be going to the White House. But the celebration was still on… until yesterday, when the official head count of Eagles came in and the administration cancelled the event. In cancelling, Trump tweeted out the reasons for cancelling the event by stating the Eagles disagree with their President about standing for the National Anthem. The administration says that the Eagles had said 80+ members of the team would be attending and then they were told on Monday there would only be 10.
There are some facts that are being overlooked. No Philadelphia Eagles player took a knee during the national anthem during the regular season. One player did in the pre-season, but he did not make the team. The administration then said that staying in the locker room is not acceptable either. None of the Eagles stayed in the locker room during the anthem either. Also, the active roster of an NFL team is only 53 players. If you add in all the coaches and staff you get to the 80+ number… but there are many players on record since February saying that they would not be attending the event. The implication from the administration is that that Eagles were trying to embarrass the President and make a political statement.
The White House visit is not a mandatory event for the team nor the President. A majority of the Philadelphia Eagles players do community outreach. One player, Chris Long, donated every game check this year to charity. Long was on the New England Patriots last year and did not attend that White House celebration either. He is just one of many players who goes above and beyond for his fellow man and who has chosen not to associate with this administration. Whether you agree or disagree with their decision… part of what makes this country great is the ability for them to disagree with the President.