Several Philadelphia Eagles players are indicating they will not visit the White House following Philadelphia’s 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52.
Malcolm Jenkins: Safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the league’s most outspoken players about social-justice issues, told CNN anchor John Berman that he decided to skip a customary Super Bowl celebration at the White House with President Trump in order to stay true to the message he’s promoted all season.
“My message has been clear all year. I’m about creating positive change in the communities that I come from, whether it be Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, or this entire country,” Jenkins said. “I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economic and educational advancement in communities of color and low-income communities.”
Torrey Smith: Wide receiver Torrey Smith told reporters at the Super Bowl he was upset that Trump and his supporters suggested that players were protesting the national anthem itself.
“We read the news just like everyone else,” Smith said. “They call it the anthem protest. We’re not protesting the anthem. It’s a protest during the anthem. My father when he dies, is going to be buried with an American flag draped around his casket, being that he served in the army. Also, there are soldiers that have issues going on right now, and they are things that affect them. They’re things that affect my father. He understands both sides of the issue.”
On Monday, Smith responded to critics who called him out for declaring even before the Super Bowl that he wouldn’t visit the White House.
Chris Long: Defensive lineman Chris Long has also said he wouldn’t attend a celebration at the White House.
Long, who donated his entire salary to charity and didn’t visit the White House after playing on the Patriots’ winning team in 2017, said last week he would decline an invitation to celebrate with the president.
“No, I’m not going to the White House,” Long said on the Pardon My Take podcast. “Are you kidding me?”
LeGarrette Blount: Running back LeGarrette Blount, who also played for the Patriots last season, joined Long in skipping Trump’s White House invite last year.
“I just don’t feel welcome into that house,” Blount, who hasn’t indicated if he’ll again decline to attend, said at the time. “I’m just gonna leave it at that.”
The championship-winning team typically visits the White House sometime in the months after the victory.
Trump has attacked NFL players: Trump has repeatedly attacked the NFL for allowing players to protest racial injustice ahead of games during the national anthem, conflating the players’ concerns about social issues with being disrespectful to the flag. He even emphasized the importance of standing for the national anthem during his State of the Union speech last week, and issued a statement Sunday afternoon encouraging players not to protest ahead of the Super Bowl.
Still, Trump congratulated the Eagles for their Super Bowl victory following the game Sunday night.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
White House tradition: According to ESPN’s Thomas Neumann, the tradition of winning teams making a trip to the White House started in 1865, when President Andrew Johnson invited the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs. The first NFL team to visit the White House was the 1980 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who were invited by President Jimmy Carter as part of a dual ceremony with the World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates.
The first time an athlete’s decision to boycott the White House celebration made big news was 1984, when NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird declined President Ronald Reagan’s invitation to attend a celebration of the NBA champion Boston Celtics.
Bird didn’t offer a public reason for his decision to skip the White House visit, saying at the time, “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.”