Like a socialite afraid that no one will come to her party, Donald Trump chose to uninvite NFL Super Bowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles to an event on Tuesday. As it looked like only a handful of the players would be showing up, he shut them down rather than risk looking rejected in public. He chose his favorite method, Twitter, to make the announcement Monday evening. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed that the Eagles had pulled a “political stunt” during Tuesday’s conference.
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
Then to stress the point in a rather undignified tweet, Trump added more salt to the wound.
We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
We have had many Championship teams recently at the White House including the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Penguins, New England Patriots, Alabama and Clemson National Champions, and many others. National Anthem & more great music today at 3:00 P.M.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
If Barack Obama had done anything remotely close to this, Donald Trump would have been all over Twitter stating how unAmerican the action was along with Republicans. Now, many Republicans remain silent hoping to continue drinking from the small teat of Trump’s supporters.
Trump knows that by repeating something over and over will wind up remaining in people’s heads where they don’t even remember what is fact and what is fiction anymore. Case in point, the Colin Kaepernick controversy. Most people don’t even remember why both he and many players in the NFL chose to take a knee during the National Anthem. It was not a sign of disrespect, but to show the problem of police violence against black people.
Trump chose to jump into the fray (plus it was a great distraction from the growing Russia investigation) and has now become the arbiter of what patriotism is and what is means to the over 300 million citizens of the United States. In Trump’s world, patriotism is standing for the National Anthem before NFL football games. If you choose not to stand (or buy a hotdog supporting the vendors at the stadium), you are dishonoring not only the “great men and women of our military” but also the “people of our country.”
On Tuesday he took this one step further forgetting that the White House is not his personal house. It is the house of the citizens of the United States, but as he feels that his power supersedes the law, he has chosen to plant a giant Trump emblem on it.
- Trump’s explanation that not having every member of the Eagles there would somehow disappoint Eagles fans who “deserve better” is total fiction. I’m not an Eagles fan. But if they are anything like Washington Redskins fans, they would be totally thrilled to meet the backup left guard on the team — much less a large group of players who expressed interest in coming. Trump is hiding behind the I-am-doing-the-fans-a-favor excuse to play some politics here — plain and simple.
- Trump doesn’t own the White House. Trump seems to be treating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like one of his Trump properties. If only you had done things the way I wanted them done, then maybe you could be reclining in one of my 5-star hotels right now — or playing golf at one of my award-winning courses. That is how Trump thinks.
Now, all presidents understand that an invitation to the White House is a big deal. Democratic and Republican presidents have used the White House as a way to woo wavering legislators, reward major donors and impress foreign diplomats.
But the idea that people can be disinvited because they don’t act the way you want them to in a certain situation is new ground. This is pick-up-my-ball-and go-home-type of stuff.
- Trump’s definition of patriotism is very, very narrow. By the definition offered in his statement tonight, patriotism for Donald Trump is standing proudly for the National Anthem, with your hand on your heart. Doing anything else is disrespectful — not only to Trump but to the military and to the country as a whole.
So, what about when Baltimore Orioles fans scream “O’s” when the line “Oh say can you see?” Or the Washington Capitals fans — as they did tonight — cheer wildly when the word “red” is mentioned in the line “rockets red glare?” Is that equally disrespectful? If not, why not?
On Tuesday morning, Trump elaborated on his idea of patriotism in a tweet about his plans to host a “Celebration of America” event instead of the planned Eagles celebration.
“We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America!” Trump posted on Twitter. “NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!” he added, referring to the NFL’s new policy that allows players to wait off the field during the anthem.
- Trump thinks patriotism must equal unwavering loyalty to his view of the National Anthem. If you take Trump at his word in the statement released Monday night, the only way that you can show love and appreciation for those who have fought and died for our country is to stand with your hand over your heart during the playing of the National Anthem. That’s it. That’s the only route.
Take a step back. What are Americans fighting and dying in foreign countries fighting and dying for, if not the right of free expression, of the freedom to speak your mind without fear?
The essence of being an American is that right to express your views in a way that is true and faithful to your own experiences. The key to the success of American experiment is a belief that our melting pot of over 300 million people and their experiences gets it right only when we listen to other views and value those views, just as we value our own opinions.
Insistence on adherence to one idea of what it means to honor our country — and its military men and women — isn’t in keeping with that credo. It’s the opposite of it.
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.
Eagles officials declined comment on the White House version of events, sticking with a simple earlier statement: “We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season.”
No one connected with the team said the players’ reluctance to attend had anything to do with the national anthem, as Trump tried to portray the situation. And comments by star players in the current pro basketball finals indicated it’s not about football.
“I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants the invite anyway. So it won’t be Golden State or Cleveland going,” said LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was no disagreement from Stephen Curry, who angered Trump last year when he said he wouldn’t go to the White House after the Warriors’ NBA triumph, leading the president to disinvite him and his team.
Trump, furious about the small number of Eagles who were coming, scrapped Tuesday’s visit, believing a low turnout would reflect poorly upon him. He had told aides last year he was embarrassed when Tom Brady, star quarterback of that season’s champion New England Patriots, opted to skip a White House visit.
Instead, the president held what he dubbed a “patriotic celebration” that was short and spare. A military band and chorus delivered the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America, with brief Trump remarks sandwiched in between.
“We love our country, we respect our flag and we always proudly stand for the national anthem,” Trump said.
The White House crowd of roughly 1,000, mostly dressed in business suits, was light on Pennsylvanians and heavy on administration and GOP Party officials. Several in attendance blamed the players, not the president, for torpedoing the Eagles event.
John Killion, a lifelong Eagles fan who now lives in Florida and traveled to Washington to see his team, said he was “devastated and infuriated” by a breakdown he blamed on the Eagles owners.
“I waited my whole life for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl and they were going to be congratulated at the White House. And I don’t really care who you like or dislike, it shouldn’t be about that,” he said.
Bill Fey, a Republican state committeeman from southern New Jersey and an Eagles fan, called the decision “a black eye as far as I’m concerned with the NFL. I think that everyone should come to the White House. This is the peoples’ house.” Still, he said, “I think the Eagles did what they thought was necessary. I don’t blame anyone.”
Trump’s own patriotic event was not without its controversy. Following the playing of the anthem, a heckler shouted from the audience: “Stop hiding behind the armed services and the national anthem!” prompting boos. A Swedish reporter posted video of a man kneeling as the anthem was played.
In a statement Monday, Trump placed the blame on Eagles players he said “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.”
Besides the fact that none of the Eagles had taken a knee during the anthem in 2017, defensive end Chris Long said the NFL anthem policy change and Trump’s reaction to it were not even discussed by the players in meetings about making the visit.
Those deciding to stay away had various reasons beyond Trump’s opposition to the protests, including more general feelings of hostility toward the president, one official said.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had planned to skip the ceremony “to avoid being used as any kind of pawn,” said in a statement that at the White House a “decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military.”
Trump has long railed against the protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines during the anthem to raise awareness around racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police.
At a rally last September, Trump suggested NFL owners fire “son of a bitch” players who “disrespect” the flag by kneeling.
As for politics, Trump believes the anthem controversy is a winning issue for him and was pleased that last month’s announcement of the league’s new policy returned it to the news, according to people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Even so, Trump made clear Tuesday he doesn’t believe the policy goes far enough, tweeting: “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”
The president told one confidant Monday that he aims to revive the issue in the months leading up to the midterm elections, believing its return to the headlines will help Republicans win votes.
Trump’s attempt to drive a wedge between the team and its fervent fan base could have political consequences in Pennsylvania, which Trump won by just 44,000 votes in 2016.
The politics are already playing out in the state’s Senate race, where Republican Rep. Lou Barletta is challenging Democratic incumbent Bob Casey.
Barletta attended the White House ceremony sans Eagles, “representing the proud Pennsylvanians who stand for our flag.” Casey tweeted he would be “skipping this political stunt at the White House” and invited the Eagles on a tour of the Capitol instead.