Donald Trump has decided to cancel the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the White House after the team announced it would only send a contingent of 10 players, not the whole team. Sadly, the president is punishing patriotic Eagles who wish to attend, because some players like Chris Long can’t stop being PC bros.
That decision by the Eagles was prompted by the National Football League’s decision to bar players from protesting on field during the national anthem, an issue Trump has been somewhat strangely fixated on. It is an especially thin-skinned move by a president who, for all his Queens braggadocio, just can’t stand even the slightest insult.
As a lifelong fan of the Birds, I’m sure I am a little biased, but it seems to me that sending a portion of the team, a portion that wants to be there and includes Super Bowl MVP and miracle man Nick Foles, was a reasonable compromise by the Eagles in a tough situation. Some NFL players are upset that the league took the anti-protest action and are well aware that Trump rode the issue of player protests like an eight-year-old who got a pony for her birthday.
This also isn’t a particularly new or uncommon phenomenon. Many of last year’s champs the New England Patriots, including this year’s losing Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady, skipped the White House event. The White House visit is a nice event. It’s fun, but it’s not exactly the North Korea summit in terms of importance. The question that jumps out upon Trump cancelling the event is why he is choosing to keep himself so involved in the player protest issue.
An Unhealthy Obsession
If I invite 15 people over for dinner at my place and only four or five can or choose to attend, I might be annoyed at those not coming, but I wouldn’t disinvite those who are because my feelings were hurt. It’s a weird thing to do. In this case, it is also the choice that is destined to draw far more media coverage than just holding the event with 10 Eagles there. Indeed, had smug anchors on the president’s least favorite networks mocked the small contingent of Eagles, they, not the president, would have seemed small and petty.
But alas, in any race to most easily offended it is ironically Donald Trump, destroyer of political correctness and slayer of snowflakes, who always comes in first. It is arguably the least attractive of the president’s personality traits, and one that makes those who support his policies but do not adore him shake our heads and say, “Why?” Why does he want to focus on this instead of just doing the event and moving on?
Trump’s choice to weigh in on the NFL protests again and again as president has made many observers deeply uncomfortable. Whatever one thinks of the anthem protests, the Eagles didn’t kneel, but safety Malcolm Jenkins did raise his fist, in the style of the 1968 Olympics. The players are protesting a real problem. Police often do not, or appear not to, treat black men in our country the same way they do white men. This is an issue that police forces themselves acknowledge and attempt to address.
But for the president, this issue is not only unimportant, he views raising it as a slight to the country and, more importantly, to himself. While the president is quick to condemn almost any celebrity not sufficiently deferential to Trump making great of America, he seems particularly bothered when black athletes won’t take a knee and appreciate him. Why the fixation on black athletes? That question is above my expertise, but it’s not a good look. It is also a tension that the president is actively courting.
This Is Not Uniting The Country
Trump is not particularly well known for taking the high road, but in this case he is taking an event that could have been fun and a good photo op for everyone and turning it into an opportunity to divide the nation yet again. How easy it would be to simply hold the event and take the credit for being the bigger man. But, for all his accomplishments in office, Trump is rarely the bigger man. He is more often the whining man furious over slights and insults. Sometimes it seems like Trump couldn’t be the bigger man in Munchkin Land. It’s just not in his nature.
It’s a shame, because not only does it make the president seem weak, these Eagles and particularly quarterback Foles are a perfect fit for this president. The team was a wild underdog with the motto “Nobody likes us, we don’t care.” That is downright Trumpian.
Maybe White House visits by championship teams are just something we should stop doing. Some players and this president don’t seem to able to hold the events without making it about their political beliefs. It’s just not fun anymore, which is too bad.
But what is really sad is how much of the country, on both sides, is acting like Trump and simply refusing to respect those who disagree with us politically. This is not a situation that Trump created, but it is one that he is making worse.