Talk about political football: No Eagles at the White House
Taking on the NFL and football’s Super Bowl champs, President Donald Trump gave the boot to a White House ceremony for the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday and instead threw his own brief “Celebration of America” after it became clear most players weren’t going to show up.
Both sides traded hot accusations about who was to blame.
Trump tried to turn the fracas into a referendum on patriotism and tie it to the dispute over players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. However, Eagles players never knelt during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” throughout the 2017 season and their march to the Super Bowl.
The White House accused Eagles team members of pulling a “political stunt” and abandoning their fans by backing out at the last minute. Indeed, few apparently were going to come, though some expressed disappointment that they’d been disinvited and complained Trump was unfairly painting them as anti-American.
Through it all, Trump appeared to revel in fanning the flames of a culture war that he believes revs up his political base.
Trump had long been leery of the Eagles’ planned visit to the White House, in part because the team’s owner, Jeffrey Lurie, has been a Trump critic, and because several players have been vocal critics of the league’s new policy that requires players to stand if they’re on the field during the national anthem or else stay in the locker room.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the team notified the White House last Thursday that 81 people, including players, coaches, managers and others would be attending the Super Bowl celebration. But she said the team got back in touch late Friday and tried to reschedule, “citing the fact that many players would not be in attendance.” The Eagles proposed a time when Trump would be overseas.