It’s customary for championship-winning teams from the major American sports to visit the White House and celebrate with the president.
But despite their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday, some Philadelphia Eagles players have made it clear they have no intention of being part of this tradition.
Prior to their team’s 41-33 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith and defensive end Chris Long said they didn’t want to visit the White House. Safety Malcom Jenkins said Monday that he too would boycott the White House visit.
Smith particularly cited President Donald Trump and the controversy surrounding NFL players who refuse to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. Trump has strongly criticized the anthem protests in a series of statements and tweets.
“We read the news just like everyone else,” Smith said Wednesday, according to NJ Advance Media. “You see Donald Trump tweet something. … We have those conversations in the locker room, just like everyone else does in the workplace. We’re very informed about what goes on, and we’re trying to continue to educate ourselves.”
“They call it the anthem protest,” he added. “We’re not protesting the anthem. It’s a protest during the anthem. I understand why people are mad, or may be offended when someone takes a knee.”
For Long, it’s the second time in as many years he will skip the White House visit. Last year, he was a member of the Super Bowl-winning Patriots, and he boycotted the customary trip then as well.
“No, I’m not going to the White House,” he said last week on the “Pardon My Take” podcast, as reported by USA Today. “Are you kidding me?”
During a media session, he would not detail his stance any further.
“I went through this last year with the Trump thing,” Long said. “I’m not going to get into it.”
On Monday, meanwhile, Jenkins appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to announce he would refuse to visit the White House.
“Nah, I personally do not anticipate attending,” Jenkins said.
After being asked if he had a message for Trump, Jenkins replied, “My message has been clear all year. … I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economical and educational advancement in communities of color and low-income communities.”
“And I want to see our relationship between our communities and our law enforcement be advanced.”
The relationship between Trump and NFL players has been strained all year, particularly after a September rally where the president called for the “sons of b—–s” who kneel during the anthem to be “fired.”
On Sunday, Trump released a statement prior to the Super Bowl, in which he emphasized the importance of honoring service men and women by standing for the anthem.
“We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner,” Trump said.
“We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
No players kneeled during the anthem Sunday, though Jenkins, Smith and Eagles safety Rodney McLeod all raised their fists, as reported by New York Magazine.
Jenkins, Smith and Long might not be the only players who will skip the White House visit. Like Long, Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount was on the Patriots last year, and he too decided he did not want to take part in the tradition.
“I just don’t feel welcome into that house. I’m just going to leave it at that,” Blount said at the time.
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