Following their 2018 Super Bowl win, the Philadelphia Eagles were invited to the White House for a celebration and the opportunity to meet the president, as is customary for winners of the football championship. President Trump abruptly called off the visit, however, after hearing that many of the players would not attend and the team planned to send only a small delegation to the event.
President Donald Trump invited the Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House after they won the 2018 Super Bowl, but he withdrew the invitation on short notice after learning that many member of the team had declined his invitation. He instead held a celebration featuring the United States Marine Band for Eagles fans who had obtained tickets to the celebration.
The Philadelphia Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl, and were subsequently invited to celebrate their victory at the White House. When many of the team’s players decided not to attend, out of protest against the president’s policies and the team offered to send only a small delegation, Trump angrily disinvited the whole team.
On February 4, 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in the 52nd Super Bowl, taking home their first Lombardi Trophy after almost four hours of intense play. Since the Pittsburgh Steelers did so in 1980, it has been customary for winners of the United States’ most-watched sports event to celebrate their success by visiting the president at the White House.
Almost three months after the Eagles’ victory, neither they nor the White House had any word on whether the team would visit. In a confidential meeting with National Football League owners and players, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was recorded criticizing Trump, saying his presidency had been “disastrous.” The recording leaked to The New York Times in late April, and several star players had already told news sources they would not attend such a celebration if it did occur, due to political differences with President Trump. However, on May 17, the White House announced it would indeed host the team on June 5.
In addressing why he and many of his teammates planned to skip the event, Torrey Smith explained to The Times that, since he would never go to a party hosted by someone who was racist, sexist, and had insulted his friends — “why is it any different when this person has the title of President of the United States?” Chris Long, known for his outspoken political views, and teammate LeGarrette Blount both indicated that they would also forgo the visit, just as they had done a year earlier as members of the 2017 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. At least two dozen Patriots players skipped that meeting, according to The Times, including quarterback Tom Brady, a Trump supporter, who cited “family matters” as his reason.
By June 4, the day before the scheduled 2018 celebration, only two Eagles players and a handful of coaches had committed to attending. As a result, President Trump released a statement rescinding the invitation. “The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” the statement read. Following the event’s cancellation, prominent athletes and team members took to social media to defend the Eagles. Torrey Smith wrote on Twitter: “So many lies. Here are the facts 1. Not many people were going to go 2. No one refused to simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem 3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military.” Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter, “I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress.” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney voiced a similar sentiment: “These are players who stand up for the causes they believe in and who contribute in meaningful ways to their community. They represent the diversity of our nation—a nation in which we are free to express our opinions. Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party . . . no one wants to attend.”
Public reactions were polarized. Many viewed such White House visits as a privilege and an opportunity for NFL players to show their patriotism, while others argued that the players had a right to use their platform to express their political views. Often brought up in these discussions was the fact that none of the Eagles players had actually knelt during the national anthem that season (some players did, however, raise their fists or lock arms), which made many question the soundness of President Trump’s reasoning.
President Trump invites Eagles fans to the White House for an alternate celebration
In his statement, President Trump offered Eagles fans who had planned to accompany their team to the White House “a different type of ceremony—one that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.”
However, many who witnessed the ceremony, including SB Nation, a Vox media-owned sports blog, raised doubts as to whether any Eagles fans were actually present. And according to Think Progress, a news website run by the DC think tank Center for American Progress, “multiple interns from at least one federal agency were invited to the event shortly beforehand and attended. . . . The interns, who were not from Pennsylvania and did not talk about the Eagles or the president, received souvenir American flags.” This was apparently a departure from previous practice.
Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20
Uploaded August 31, 2018