The debate over the national anthem protests reignited last month when the NFL announced that they will be enforcing a new policy that requires its athletes to stand or face fines. What began with a handful of players (most famously Colin Kaepernick) became a heated political feud between President Trump and the entire NFL when he referred to kneelers as a “son of a b-tch” during a rally last September, causing hundreds of players to kneel during the anthem for the rest of the season.
The kneeling was supposed to draw attention to police brutality, but animosity towards the president hijacked the protests and the protests became largely about him. It was a culture war Trump was willing to wage and it largely worked in his favor. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans do not favor these protests, which many see as disrespecting the American flag and the military, and the NFL saw a huge decrease in viewership and game attendance.
But despite him being on the right side of the issue, Trump went too far in cancelling the Philadelphia Eagle’s visit to the White House. The White House says it was led to believe up until last Friday that most of the Super Bowl-winning team were planning to attend the event in their honor. Turned out fewer than ten players were going to show up.
So instead, Trump cancelled the event and issued this statement:
The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. 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. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better. These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of 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. I will be there at 3:00p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.
There’s a lot to digest in this statement, the first being the “they disagree with their President” line. One of our greatest freedoms is to be allowed to express our dissent of those in power. While many of his haters are quick to compare him to a dictator over that remark, it’s simply egotistical of him to even imply that they did something wrong because they “disagreed” with the president.
Second, his statement strongly mischaracterized the Eagles, one of the few teams that actually stood for the national anthem throughout the whole season. Whether it was a gross generalization or flat-out dishonestly, it was wrong for Trump to make that assertion.
Finally, the statement painted the picture that the Eagles were ditching the White House visit out of disrespect for the anthem, but that’s not true. These players simply don’t like this president. Whether they think he’s a racist or a white supremacist or not, they apparently had no interest in doing a photo-op with him.
So in order to save face like he did with his invite withdrawal of the Golden State Warriors last year, Trump saved himself the embarrassment of being seen with a measly two or three players and a mascot instead of the entire team and scraped the event altogether in favor of the “Celebration of America.”
Perhaps the Eagles did in fact attempt to embarrass the president with their last-minute bow-out and attempt to reschedule the following week, which everyone knows is when Trump is having his high-stakes summit with North Korea. That’s what Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed on Tuesday. Obviously, they have the right not to show up, but while they also have the right to accuse Trump of dividing the country, the Eagles didn’t do much uniting for their part either.
Being invited to the White House should be an honor no matter who is the occupant. Whether it’s Trump, Obama, or Bush, you put your political differences aside in respect of the Oval Office and to preserve civility in this country. So the Eagles could have put a little more effort in extending an olive branch instead of pulling dirty tricks like they seem to have done.
Ultimately, President Trump comes off as the loser in this dustup mostly because disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles from coming after most of them decided not to come anyway comes off as petty and desperate. Trump already struck a victory with the NFL changing its policy so he could have taken the high road with this celebration no matter who showed up. Sadly, taking the high road isn’t exactly what this president is known for.