It is a sports tradition. The champion football/baseball/basketball/hockey team visits the White House.
Not so, the Philadelphia Eagles. Largely, because of Trump’s stance on NFL football players kneeling, fewer than ten of the Eagles have RSVPed that they would attend the Eagles celebration ceremony at the White House. So Trump dis-invited them to avoid the embarrassment, although of course, it is the headline story, so embarrassment was not avoided. Now he just looks petty.
Philly Mayor Kenney released the following statement on the recent decision of President Trump to disinvite the Philadelphia Eagles from visiting the White House:
“The Eagles call the birthplace of our democracy home, so it’s no surprise that this team embodies everything that makes our country and our city great. Their athletic accomplishments on the field led to an historic victory this year. Fans all across the country rallied behind them because we like to root for the underdog and we feel joy when we see the underdogs finally win. I’m equally proud of the Eagles’ activism off the field. 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 to which no one wants to attend.
“City Hall is always open for a celebration.”
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) June 5, 2018
Terry Smith, a former Eagles wide receiver disputed Trump’s press statement:
So many lies smh
Here are some facts
1. Not many people were going to go
2. No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem
3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military pic.twitter.com/89GUNhJ4eE
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
The ceremony will happen anyway. Trump said in the statement that more than 1,000 fans who had been invited to the celebration would still be welcome at the White House for what the president called “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.”
The president said he would “be there at 3 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
This reinvigorates the entire NFL debate, which reopened in recent weeks when N.F.L. owners decreed last month that players would face punishment — and their teams could be fined — if they knelt during the national anthem. The owners said players could stay in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they chose to.
The players association denounced the decision, saying it violated the “principles, values and patriotism of our league.” But Trump hailed the decision. Speaking to reporters, he said that if a player decided not to stand for the national anthem, “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
In his tweet late last night, Trump criticized players who would choose to remain in the locker room. “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!” Trump wrote.
So the NFL owners placate Trump, and he’s still not satisfied. He’s going to make the NFL kneeling an issue no matter what.
Many believe Trump is doing this to play to his base. Maybe. But his base, whatever that is, is in his corner.
Some believe he is trying to distract people from the Mueller investigation. But it seems to me that the investigation is going forward, and the media is covering it plenty.
I think this is Trump just picking a fight with NFL owners because its personal. Before Trump was a politician or even a reality television star, he was a professional football owner. The league was the star-crossed USFL in the mid-1980s, and the team was the New Jersey Generals. Then real-estate magnate Trump bought the team in 1984 and helped encourage the USFL, which was then playing its games in the spring, to move to the autumn, where it would go head-to-head with the NFL.
The NFL crushed the fledgling USFL. Trump unsuccessfully tried to sue the larger league for antitrust violations, many teams went bankrupt, and the USFL eventually folded.
Fast forward to 2014, and Trump had another run-in with the NFL, when he tried to buy the Buffalo Bills team. He was outbid by an energy-sector billionaire and – in a move that should now be quite familiar – took to Twitter to vent his anger.
“Even though I refused to pay a ridiculous price for the Buffalo Bills, I would have produced a winner,” he tweeted. “Now that won’t happen.”
He also called NFL games “boring” and “too soft”, adding that he was glad the deal didn’t go through.
In other words, Trump has a longstanding grudge against the NFL – and if there’s one thing we know about the president, it’s that he likes to settle old scores.
I don’t mind that Trump AND the media put the focus on NFL players kneeling; I just wish that more air time and ink was spent on WHY the players kneel during the Anthem.
It should be noted, by the way, that during the regular season, not ONE Philly Eagles player knelt during the National Anthem. That said…
Fox News uses pictures of Eagles players praying to pretend they were kneeling for the national anthem (no Eagles player actually did) pic.twitter.com/BbgzmyGdpn
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 5, 2018
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) June 5, 2018
Philly mayor statement on Ttump: “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 to which no one wants to attend.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 5, 2018
UPDATE: In a press release that reeks of desperation, the White House insists that “the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans” by not attending event with Trump.
I doubt it.
UPDATE #2: Politico talks about the behind-the-scenes machinations of how we got here:
Last week, the Eagles submitted 81 names of players who were planning to visit the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. The team was “full steam ahead,” another administration official said, for an event that had been in the works since February.
But on Monday, the White House was informed that the delegation had been reduced to just two or three players, the owner, and the team’s beloved mascot, Swoop.
“We feel like they wanted to publicly humiliate the White House and the president,” the official said.
The change of plans was a setback for a White House that has until now viewed its culture war with the National Football League as a winning issue with its base. The event had been in the works for months, and taken up hours of planning by senior administration officials.
The internal reaction to the change of plans was also the latest example of the siege mentality that grips many of the staffers around the president – that it’s the ever-shrinking West Wing staff against the world. In her statement, Sanders cited “a lack of good faith” on the part of the Eagles during the negotiations for the event.
Over the past few months, another senior administration official said, the team had even put in a request to meet privately with the president for a few minutes.
But things started to fall apart on Friday, when the team suggested alternate dates because players were dropping out of Tuesday’s ceremony. But the suggested dates were seen, internally, as an attempt to get out of a photo-op with President Donald Trump – all of the new dates proposed were during the period when Trump is scheduled to travel to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.
“Finally, the president said it was BS,” the second official said.
On Monday evening, Trump canceled the event altogether, citing his long-running feud with the NFL over players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racism and police violence. The decision in the Oval Office was swift, with the president asking senior staff if the Marine band was available.
UPDATE #3 – the pièce de résistance — he holds the event anyway, without the Eagles — and clearly doesn’t know the words to “God Bless America”
Do all Eagles fans wear business suits? pic.twitter.com/3si36WMOpf
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) June 5, 2018
Who replaced the Eagles? Lobbyists? pic.twitter.com/5aJSFjgjLr
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) June 5, 2018
Not a single Eagles jersey in the bunch.
Oh, I see. They had crisis actors….
White House blasted an email to all staffers this morning inviting them to attend the event https://t.co/Ryg4ZuXRfH
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) June 5, 2018
If you include those who arrived at the last minute (staff, presumably) there were perhaps 1,000 on the South Lawn. I’m guessing no more than 5 or 10 percent booed, but they were quite audible because there wasn’t a huge cheer for Trump.
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) June 5, 2018
— Tim Furlong (@tfurlong) June 5, 2018
A man takes a knee during Trump’s celebration. pic.twitter.com/zghJSk2YOu
— Carina Bergfeldt (@carinabergfeldt) June 5, 2018
Audio resolves the booing question . The booing starts just as Trump says “thank you” but seems to be directed at a heckler telling Trump to “stop hiding” from something or other. I didn’t hear that from the press section.
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) June 5, 2018