The White House announced on Tuesday that it will cancel a planned visit and celebration to honor the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. While championship-winning sports teams have customarily visited the White House for decades, the Trump presidency has changed this status quo. Numerous professional athletes have been outspoken critics of the Trump administration, leading to frequent clashes between the athletic and political spheres.
• White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ statement reads that, by sending fewer representatives than initially agreed, “the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans.”
• Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, a frequent anti-Trump voice, tweeted a lengthy response calling the picture painted by the White House a lie that portrayed Eagles players as “anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military.”
UMD Diamondback: Sportswriter Ryan Romano covers UMD alum Torrey Smith’s decision to skip the Eagles’ White House visit, citing Smith’s belief that “it’s just about doing the right thing.”
• Smith claims that Americans often “hold our athletes and entertainers to higher standards than we’re holding the President of the United States.”
• He, alongside teammates Jenkins and Chris Long, have lobbied Pennsylvania state legislators for criminal justice reform.
Tufts Daily: David Meyer writes that Trump’s willingness to address athletes marks “a new relationship” between politics and sports.
• “Politicians discussing sports is much less common than athletes discussing politics,” providing a precedent for athletes’ involvement in politics but not vice versa
• In his war with the NFL, Trump has “directed [offensive language] toward his own citizens. He was calling peaceful protestors disrespectful, yet he used one of the most disrespectful terms possible (b***h) to describe them.”
Duke Chronicle: Ethan Ready writes that the movement kickstarted by these NFL protests, beginning with Colin Kaepernick, “has become one of the most important in sports history.”
• Ready notes that over two dozen of last year’s Super Bowl winning New England Patriots elected to forego their White House visit.
• He considers “calls for athletes to ‘stick to sports’ [as] unreasonable and unethical. These directions imply that players are incapable of important political thought.”
• “In a supposed informed democracy like ours, all citizens - regardless of profession – should be permitted to confidently express their political beliefs peacefully”
The Bottom Line:
Tuesday’s development is only the latest piece in an ongoing struggle between athletes and the White House. As athletes continue to protest perceived injustices, many politicians’ attempts at censorship add fuel to this fire. This debate will likely continue into the 2018-19 NFL season, creating more headlines that the president can use to distract attention from ongoing incidents like the Mueller investigation.