Reviving National Anthem Fires, Trump Revokes Eagles White House Invite

President Trump waded back into the National Anthem debate when he revoked the invitation of the Philadelphia Eagles to come to the White House today.

Late yesterday, the White House issued a statement announcing that the visit by the Philadephia Eagles to the White House today to mark their Super Bowl victory was canceled due to the fact that many members of the team had chosen not to attend:

WASHINGTON — President Trump abruptly called off the White House celebration honoring the Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles after nearly all of the players and coaches said they would boycott the visit after the president’s demands that players stand during the national anthem at games.

White House officials said that fewer than 10 members of the team were planning to attend the celebration on Tuesday afternoon on the South Lawn despite weeks of planning for the event, which is usually a nonpolitical celebration of a football victory.

Instead, this year’s event to honor the Eagles has become a bitter reflection of the deep divisions in the United States over race, patriotism and Mr. Trump himself. When it became clear that most members of the team would not attend, Mr. Trump issued a blistering statement disinviting them.

“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Mr. Trump said in a statement released Monday evening. “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.”

Mr. 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.”

In a Twitter post Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump raised the issue again and promoted his new national anthem event. “NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Team officials could not be reached for comment. The team released a statement on Twitter late Monday that did not address the controversy but praised the team’s fans for their support as the franchise won its first championship.

Here’s the White House statement issued last night:

The President has also, predictably, reacted on Twitter:

And here’s are responses from the Eagles, the Mayor of Philadelphia, and the N.F.L. Players Association:

All of this began, of course, back in 2016 when San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem. Soon after that protest started, Kaepernick explained that his decision to kneel was his way of protesting racism, police brutality, and the treatment of African-American men by police across the country, an issue that had come to the forefront in the wake of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri and other cases that rose to public attention from around the country. Kaepernick was joined by a handful of other players during the 2016 season, but the issue had largely disappeared from headlines weeks after it started and the season proceeded forward without significant controversy.

The issue revived to some extent during the early weeks of the 2017 season, with sporadic cases of other players kneeling during the Anthem, although Kaepernick was not among them since he had been released by the 49ers and has, as of yet, not been signed by any other team. Then, the President got involved. At a campaign speech in Alabama in late September of last year, Trump went after the players who were kneeling during the Anthem, calling them “sons of bitches” and calling on the league and/or the teams to fire or otherwise discipline players who don’t stand for the Anthem. This led the league, the NFL Players Association, and pretty much all the team owners to voice support for the protesting players. Additionally, the weeks after the President’s statement witnessed the expansion of the kneeling protests as players of all races either knelt during the Anthem or engaged in some other form of showing solidarity with those players who chose to do so. It was during this period that Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when some players knelt during the Anthem, in what was obviously a staged photo opportunity by the White House to further stir the pot. Several weeks later, the league announced that it would not discipline players who continued to kneel during the Anthem, and polling in both September and October showed that most Americans opposed the position taken by the President. Late last month, though, the controversy was revived when the N.F.L. announced a rule change stating that it would fine teams if any players declined to stand while on the field during the National Anthem, but left open the option that teams or individual players could choose to stay off the field during the Anthem. President Trump responded to this rule change by suggesting that people who don’t stand during the Anthem should ‘leave the country,” and with this morning’s Tweets, he makes it clear that he does not consider the option of staying off the field to be acceptable.

As a preliminary matter, it ought to be noted that no members of the Philadelphia Eagles have ever knelt during the National Anthem. They didn’t do it at the Super Bowl, they didn’t do it during the 2017 regular season, and they didn’t do it during the 2016 season either. Notwithstanding that, several members of the team, such as star Safety Malcolm Jenkins, did announce in the weeks since the White House announced the event that was scheduled for today that they would not be attending although in most cases they didn’t state precisely why. This follows a pattern that has developed since Trump took office as the whole issue of the visit of championship teams has become politicized in a way it has never been before. Last year, for example, several members of the New England Patriots skipped the White House visit, including Quarterback Tom Brady, although in his case it was apparently due to a family health issue. The Golden State Warriors, who won the NBA Championship last year, made it clear that they didn’t want to attend and instead came to Washington to meet with children. The Houston Astros did come to the White House after winning the World Series last year but, again, a handful of players did not attend. And the Pittsburgh Penguins attended after winning the Stanley Cup but the event did not include such customs as giving the President a team uniform and posing for a photograph.

On some level, I suppose, one could argue that this entire custom of having champion teams visiting the White House is silly and unnecessary, but it’s also been a generally lighthearted event in the past, and it’s one that taps into the popular culture in a way that any White House would naturally want to. In the Trump Era, though, it appears as if there’s nothing that isn’t politicized, even this. The primary reason for that, of course, is the fact that the President has chosen to politicize so many things and to make himself the focus of the political, racial, and other issues that divide the country. In this case, it is clear that the purpose behind Trump’s insistence on continuing to hang on to the issue of the N.F.L. Anthem protests has nothing to do with the flag, the National Anthem, or the National Football League. Instead, Trump clearly recognizes this as an issue that he can use to energize his base and to stoke the racial fires that he was so obviously trying to stoke during his campaign for the Presidency. The fact that he’s making it clear that the N.F.L.’s attempt at a compromise will not be acceptable to him means, of course, that he fully intends on continuing to stoke the fires of this issue during the upcoming season. The fact that this will just happen to coincide with the midterm elections is, I’m sure, purely coincidental.

On the other hand, as I noted this morning on Twitter, there’s no small degree of humor in all of this:

So I guess we at least have that much out of all of this silliness.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, Sports, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump is obsessed with the words “proud” and “proudly,” isn’t he?

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    President Dennison, who likes to posture as the ultimate alpha male, is just a big dumb snowflake made of cheeto dust.
    This is, like, the third or fourth person or group he has dis-invited after he found out they weren’t coming.
    What a jamoke.
    And note that no Eagles knelt during the anthem this season…so his entire rant is just another lie…and in turn State-TV is showing Eagles players on their knee, praying, in a mendacious attempt to rationalize their leaders lie.

    On the Russia thing (which this NFL thing is meant to distract from); up until now I did not expect Mueller to find a smoking gun on conspiracy (so-called collusion). But if Manafort was dumb enough to suborn perjury, electronically, while out on bail…then he is easily dimwitted enough to have left evidence for Mueller to find on conspiracy (so-called collusion).

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  3. Gustopher says:

    The Trump Presidency is barely a year old, and he has already reached the Terrible Twos — the man is clearly very advanced, and if he gets a second term, he will be Presidenting with the emotional maturity of a teenager by the end of it.

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  4. CSK says:

    I wonder who will show up for this afternoon’s “patriotic celebration”? What’s the over/under on Melania having to wash her hair or re-organize Barron’s sock drawer?

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  5. Slugger says:

    While I was standing with uncovered head and right hand over my heart during the playing of our National Anthem at the Super Bowl this year, I glanced outside and saw my neighbor sledding in the driveway with his kids. Not watching the game! Not standing at attention! I want to renounce him to the authorities, but I don’t trust the FBI. Should I rely on our Sheriff or get my gun for a citizen’s arrest. I want to do my patriotic duty.

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  6. Franklin says:

    Aww, geez, and after all the NFL did to appease the King …

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  7. Just nutha... says:

    You can’t snub me. I’ll show you–you’re disinvited!!! So there!

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  8. MarkedMan says:

    Having inadvertently become embroiled with Trump, the NFL is screwed no matter which way they jump. Once you get even a little bit of Trump on you, it’s best just to cut off the offending body part because trying to manage the infection just means it will eventually reach your head. About the least-worst thing they could do would be to make a big deal about how Trump has politicized the National Anthem, which means it can no longer be simply played as an act of patriotism without de facto supporting him. They then announce that the anthem won’t be played until all parties agree not to politicize it. Finally, they make no effort to get any kind of pledge.

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  9. Kathy says:

    During the 2016 campaign, Scott Adams claimed Clinton would prove too divisive if elected. I wonder how he feels now.

    Does it strike anyone else that Trump is the answer to Twain’s War Prayer?

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  10. Tyrell says:

    Hopefully next year the White House will be welcoming the Super Bowl winning Washington Redskins.

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  11. CSK says:

    @CSK:

    Answering my own question: According to a spokesperson for Melania Trump, the First Lady has “no plans” to attend today’s “patriotic celebration.” Barron’s sock drawer must be a disaster area.

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  12. Moosebreath says:

    Meanwhile, the closest thing this country has to Pravda chose to broadcast footage of Eagles kneeling in prayer and told its viewers that they were kneeling during the anthem.

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  13. george says:

    @Kathy:

    To be fair, its probably impossible for any president not to be divisive right now. People are following party, not leaders, and the feeling of a significant minority of the voters is if you’re not on my team then you’re on the wrong team and so wrong.

    And I say that as someone very firmly on the D-team. There’s no D-candidate who wouldn’t have alienated the R-team, there’s no R-candidate who wouldn’t have alienated the D-team.

    Trump is a horrible disaster, but this divisiveness has being growing for decades (since the 60’s from my experience), and its giving him a lot more power than he deserves to suggest he’s responsible for more than a tiny portion of it. Sometimes societies are simply split (the reformation is another period like this), and it doesn’t matter who the figure heads are, people are going to be divided.

    On a side note, the idea of winning sports teams visiting presidents is pretty bad to begin with; its politicians trying to gain approval for things that have absolutely nothing to do with them.

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    The mendacious Sarah Sanders just said that the Eagles, by not coming to the White House, have abandoned their fans.
    That’s going to be pretty incendiary in Eagle Country.

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  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    @george I have one interpretation of Trump in my head that says we picked someone would would be the most partisan, the most divisive, just so we could know how bad all that stuff is, and put it behind us.

    Another way of looking at it is that Republicans/conservatives/evangelicals think that they are in an existential struggle, and are pulling out all the stops to prevent their own extinction. With the failure of Trump, there will be capitulation, and then a rebirth of conservatism. That’s another narrative in my head.

    What I don’t think will happen is that this chaotic, equal contest that produces intense partisanship will continue indefinitely, despite the best efforts of the people who benefit from it.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @george:

    To be fair, its probably impossible for any president not to be divisive right now.

    That is true, but there are degrees to it. and Trump is merrily going off the scale.

    One of Obama’s worst mistakes, politically, was when he said elections have consequences, and some people should stop talking. He implied if you support the other party, then you don’t matter. But he still didn’t go about every day bashing the GOP or their supporters. I expect Clinton would have been about the same, even given her basket of deplorables comment.

    Trump sees any opposition, justified or not, reasoned or not, respectful or not, as a personal attack on him. He rouses his base by making such “attacks” on him sound or seem like “attacks” on the country. That is not just partisan and divisive, it’s dangerous. It’s the same tactic used by dictators now and in the past.

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  17. Facebones says:

    @Just nutha…:

    You can’t snub me. I’ll show you–you’re disinvited!!! So there!

    More like, “You’re not dumping ME! I’M dumping YOU!!!!!”

    More seriously, Pennsylvania is a swing state he won by less than the average attendance at an Eagles game. You think this is a smart thing to do, alienating Eagles fans?

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  18. Just nutha... says:

    @Facebones: Well, I don’t actually spend a lot of time considering the consequences of Trump’s behavior so…

    ETA: (But yes, I do understand “rhetorical you.”)

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  19. Moosebreath says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    “That’s going to be pretty incendiary in Eagle Country.”

    I am sure it will play well in PA-1, PA-5, PA-6, PA-7, NJ-2, NJ-3 and NJ-7, all of which are candidates to flip House seats this fall and are at least in part within the Philadelphia metro area.

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  20. Tyrell says:

    @Moosebreath: How will it play in Cowboy country?
    “When Jerry Jones talks, people listen”

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  21. al Ameda says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Having inadvertently become embroiled with Trump, the NFL is screwed no matter which way they jump. Once you get even a little bit of Trump on you, it’s best just to cut off the offending body part because trying to manage the infection just means it will eventually reach your head.

    The NFL is finally learning what Macron and Trudeau just learned – that there is no upside to working with Trump because all he cares about is what he wants at the moment. He does not care about collaboration unless it benefits him entirely. There is no upside to trying to build a normal business relationship with Trump, he eventually diminishes or humiliates most of his ‘friends’ ‘associates’ and ‘partners.’

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  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Maybe the Washington Capitals will win the Stanley Cup and the Team (7 Americans out of 27 players on the roster) can go to the White House and ice Pud’s puck.

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  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Tyrell:

    “When Jerry Jones talks, people listen”

    I worked for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
    Jerry Jones is an asshole of unbelievable proportion.
    One only has to look at they Cowboy’s record post Jimmy Johnson (and yes, Barry Switzer’s Super Bowl ring should have been given to Jimmy.)
    If anyone listens to Jerry Jones, they are f’ing imbeciles.

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  24. Moosebreath says:

    @Tyrell:

    “When Jerry Jones talks, people listen”

    Except in the Philly area, where they point and laugh.

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  25. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I worked for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.

    You have my sympathies.

    One only has to look at they Cowboy’s record post Jimmy Johnson (and yes, Barry Switzer’s Super Bowl ring should have been given to Jimmy.)

    Agreed. Jerry couldn’t have Jimmy upstage him.

    I keep saying the team that must not be named should draft a new owner. But apparently business school graduates do not often enter the NFL draft in that capacity.

    Besides, Jerry’s the man who dumped Tom Landry. Whatever one thinks of the Cowboys, Landry was a towering figure in the game and deserved a more dignified exit.

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  26. george says:

    @Kathy:

    Oh, I agree Trump is right off the scale – he’s the first president in my lifetime who didn’t at least try to be ‘presidential’ and act neutral (of course, politically neutral people don’t go into politics, but as you say, there are degrees). He’s in a category by himself. I’m just not sure how much difference that makes; the reason he gets away with it (ie won the GOP nomination, won the election, hasn’t been impeached) is that his overt and over the top bias was just a crude form of the subtle biases that have been going on for decades. Its like racism; he didn’t invent it, he just doesn’t bother pretending much of his support comes from it.

    I disagree about Obama’s comment about elections having consequences being taken as meaning he didn’t represent all Americans – the only ones I know who said that were already saying Obama wasn’t their president, something that had been said by some about Bush Jr, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter. And I suspect Nixon and LBJ too, though I don’t recall that.

    Even his rousing the country against attacks on him as being unpatriotic are just a continuation of what was started (in my lifetime) by LBJ wrt the Vietnam War, continued by Nixon, and then by Bush Jr (or at least by Cheney, I’m not sure that Bush himself ever said opposing him was unpatriotic). Its interesting that Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton and Obama didn’t seem to be bothered by personal attacks; Reagan I remember making jokes about it, and the others simply ignored it.

    But I think its less serious with Trump than with Cheney; even the Trump supporters saying it refer to Obama or Bill Clinton, ie they’re don’t take it seriously. Under Cheney, it led to the Patriot Act, which was very dangerous. Trump is the symptom, not the cause, and I don’t get the sense that many of his supporters take him seriously, except as a way to vent their spleen. That’s very different than believing in him as a leader; Trump with Reagan’s charisma would be extremely dangerous, but he simply doesn’t have that.

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  27. Tyrell says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I agree with that. With Jones messing everything up, Cowboys will be doing good just to make the playoffs.

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  28. al Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    “When Jerry Jones talks, people listen”

    At least finish the sentence:
    “When Jerry Jones talks, people listen, especially when we’re discussing bad cosmetic surgery.

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  29. Hal_10000 says:

    If you want to see what class looks like, look up Malcolm Jenkins response to the President. It’s inspiring.

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  30. Tyrell says:

    @Kathy: “the team I will not name” : let me see – it has to be the Cleveland Browns! I was a Browns fan long ago. The team of Frank Ryan, Bernie Kosar, Paul Warfield, and the amazing Jim Brown! A team of champions then! The only NFL team named after a person!

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