No Eagles? No problem: Local biz leaders still make White House trip
A group of Pennsylvania small business leaders who planned to attend a White House celebration of the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, June 5, still made the trip despite the Super Bowl winners being scratched from the guest list.
None of the executives, described as rabid Eagles fans in a news release about the trip, dropped out after President Donald Trump banned the team the day before, according to John Bailey, president of Bailey Coach, which provided the bus for the group.
Bailey, whose parents both served in the military, said he supports Trump "110 percent" in his decision because he has no tolerance for people who disrespect our country's flag or national anthem.
Trump said in a statement Monday that some Eagles players “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.”
He said the team wanted to send a smaller delegation Tuesday, but “the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
None of the Eagles took a knee during the anthem in 2017.
The protests began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt silently on the sidelines during the anthem. His protest was intended to raise awareness of racism and the killing of black men by police.
One person set to attend the ceremony Tuesday told The Associated Press less than half of the team’s 53-man roster planned to go to the White House. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the decision.
Bailey, who said he's not a huge sports fan but supported the Eagles in the Super Bowl, said those who disrespect this country don't deserve to be invited to the White House.
Support: The release initially describing the trip by the National Federation of Independent Business members stated that attendees would likely be wearing green in support of the Eagles.
But as the business leaders climbed onto the bus Tuesday, the only ones wearing green were the daughters of NFIB's Pennsylvania executive director Kevin Shivers.
Tom Ryan, vice president of finance for Motor Technology Inc., said he was planning to wear green before Trump's announcement, which he described as "unfortunate."
An Eagles fan and Trump supporter, Ryan said he understood and respected arguments on both sides but wished Trump would've just let the players come if they wanted to come.
Before heading off to Washington, D.C., Ryan said he was still very excited.
"It was a big deal for me to celebrate the Eagles' victory, but going to the White House is a bigger deal," he said.
Criticism: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday criticized Trump’s decision and questioned Trump’s patriotism.
“When he had the opportunity to serve his country for real, his father got him out of it, and I think it’s really disingenuous for him to talk about patriotism in any way, shape or form,” Kenney told CNN, referring to military deferments Trump obtained that kept him from being sent to Vietnam during the war.
Kenney earlier had called Trump “a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”
The White House issued a statement Tuesday arguing that "the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans."
Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, used Twitter to invite the Eagles to visit Capitol Hill instead.
“I’m proud of what the @Eagles accomplished this year. I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. @Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?” he wrote.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.