Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania attended a White House ceremony Tuesday without the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles after President Donald Trump canceled their visit, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey skipped it — and invited the Eagles to visit Capitol Hill instead.
Barletta, who is challenging Casey’s re-election bid in November, said he went to the White House “representing the proud Pennsylvanians who stand for our flag,” referring to the new NFL policy requiring all players on the field to stand during the national anthem. While some Eagles players protested the criminal justice system on the field last season, none of the Eagles knelt during the anthem in 2017.
Trump held a different White House ceremony to honor veterans and the nation.
“We stand to honor our military, and honor our country, and to remember the fallen heroes who never made it back home,” the president said.
Casey called it a “political stunt” and said he’s proud of what the Eagles accomplished. In a Twitter message, Casey offered the Eagles a tour of the Capitol.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We ought to be able to celebrate,” Casey said to reporters at the Capitol. “I thought the president had a chance to try to rise above it and say we’re going to have this whether there is one representative or 12 or whatever the number is.”
Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sen Pat Toomey, who has been supportive of President Trump, opted not to go to the alternative event, staying at the Capitol.
“I’m doing official business here. It would not have been much of an event with just a handful of players,” Toomey said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly from western Pennsylvania also was on hand at the White House event.
Pennsylvania’s Republican candidate for governor, Scott Wagner, a Trump supporter, stayed in the middle of the road.
“Scott believes it’s unfortunate that politics have invaded everything we do and thinks we should be able to put political differences aside long enough to celebrate a team winning the Super Bowl,” his campaign said.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a persistent Trump critic, said through his office that “no amount of political silliness in Washington will damper our enthusiasm or take away the victory for the Eagles or their fans.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, an Eagles fan from suburban Philadelphia, said on Twitter that Trump had handled the matter poorly and that he would not go to the White House.
“This is a depressing commentary on our political culture, very deflating to me,” Costello wrote.