Trump Cancels Philadelphia Eagles’ WH Visit Amid Feud with Players over Racial Justice Protests

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On Monday evening, Donald Trump abruptly called off today’s planned visit by the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles, after it became clear that most of the team had opted out of the event. In a statement announcing the decision, Trump said, “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.” But not a single Eagles player kneeled during the national anthem in the 2017 season. Several members of the Philadelphia Eagles announced in February that they wouldn’t visit the White House for the traditional Super Bowl victory celebration, as a protest against President Trump. Among them are Malcolm Jenkins, Torrey Smith and Chris Long. For more, we speak with Will Bunch, longtime columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Will, if we can, I’d like to turn to another Trump subject, that is perhaps closer to you and the people of Philadelphia.

WILL BUNCH: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Monday evening, Donald Trump abruptly called off today’s planned visit by the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles, after it became clear that most of the team had opted out of the event. In a statement announcing the decision, Trump said, quote, “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.” He also tweeted last night, saying, quote, “Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”

AMY GOODMAN: But what’s interesting is, not a single Eagles player kneeled during the national anthem in the 2017 season. Compare that to Seattle Seahawks, which it was, I think, something like 110 times. Several members of the Philadelphia Eagles announced in February they wouldn’t visit the White House for the traditional Super Bowl victory celebration as a protest against President Trump—among them, Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith, as well as Chris Long. Long also refused to visit the White House last year when he played for the New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl then. Jenkins is part of a players’ coalition that’s partnered with the NFL to commit at least $90 million to programs combatting social inequality. In April, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz announced he would match up to a half a million dollars in donations to raise money to build a sports complex in Haiti. Eagles defensive end Chris Long donated his entire 2017 base salary, worth a million dollars, to charity. And Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement Monday night responding to the Eagles’ canceled White House visit, saying, quote, “Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.” Will Bunch, as we wrap up right now, your comments?

WILL BUNCH: Well, I couldn’t really say it any better than Jim Kenney just said it. I mean, that basically sums it up.

You know, Donald Trump has done something that people in Philadelphia have unsuccessfully been trying to do for decades, which is he’s totally brought this city together. You know, people in Philadelphia are, you know, just outraged. They’re angered and disgusted by the small-mindedness that Trump has displayed here.

And, you know, I’m so glad you mentioned all the things that the Eagles have done over the last year in humanitarian efforts and social justice, because, you know, the Eagles are such a classy organization. And say what you will about the NFL, but the individual players on the Eagles, many of them are fighting for social justice, many of them are giving back to the community, raising money, doing things for charity. You know, Donald Trump could have learned so much from these people, and, you know, instead, he turned them away because, you know, he’s a very small man. He’s like what Jimmy Breslin said about Giuliani: you know, “a small man in search of a balcony.” And, you know, that side of Donald Trump has been totally exposed by this.

But just one thing I’ll say, politically—and people haven’t thought much about this—but, you know, Trump only won Pennsylvania in 2016 by about 69,000 votes. And, you know, he got a decent number of votes in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia, where the Eagles are just worshiped. And, you know, on top of everything else that’s dumb about this, it’s a very dumb move politically. You know, people in Philadelphia—I mean, Trump was not popular in Philadelphia to begin with, but he’s even managed to alienate people even more with this petty, small-minded move of his.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting that you wrote “I nearly quit watching the NFL. The humanity of Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long brought me back.” I mean, you might as easily see them walking the halls of the state Legislature, lobbying around issues of criminal justice and prison reform. Will Bunch, I want to thank you—

WILL BUNCH: Yes, they’ve been doing that. They’ve been going to prisons. They’re great guys, yeah. Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us.

WILL BUNCH: Yeah. Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Bunch is a longtime columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. His latest column, “The week Trump went full dictator and no one tried to stop him.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to the border, some rare video inside a courtroom. What’s happening to children? Hundreds of them? Is it thousands of them? Taken away from their parents by the Trump administration? Stay with us.

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