Updated: 4:00 p.m.
For the first time since President Donald Trump disinvited the team from celebrating its Super Bowl win at the White House, the Philadelphia Eagles opened their practice – and their locker room – to the media.
During a short press conference Wednesday morning inside the Eagles practice facility in South Philadelphia, head coach Doug Pederson was peppered with questions about the president’s controversial decision. Pederson told reporters he was disappointed the team didn’t go to the White House after its first-ever Super Bowl win.
“We did something last season that was very special. It’s a milestone in the city of Philadelphia, our organization,” he said. “And I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as World Champions. It is what it is.”
The Eagles were supposed to be in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for the traditional, post-championship visit. But late Monday night, President Trump rescinded the invitation after learning most of the team would not be making the trip. The fans, he said, deserve better.
The president also scolded the team for allegedly disagreeing with his insistence “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.” No Eagles players kneeled while the anthem was played before games last season, but safety Malcolm Jenkins often stood with his fist raised over his head, a silent protest against racial injustice.
‘You aren’t listening’
Pederson would not say how many players planned on making the trip.
Neither would players themselves after Wednesday’s practice, as nearly 80 reporters swarmed a locker room.
They also didn’t go into detail about the White House snub — even the team’s most outspoken players.
“I have like three years of quotes about me and Donald Trump, so I’m not really going to keep going down that road. I’m on to mini-camp,” said defensive end Chris Long.
You Aren’t Listening! pic.twitter.com/41llVxwDEq
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) June 6, 2018
Jenkins stood in front of his locker, but refused to answer questions from reporters. Instead, he responded with a series of signs with hand-drawn messages.
“You aren’t listening,” read one.
“Colin Kaepernick gave $1 million to charity,” read another, referring to the pro quarterback who found himself unsigned to a team after he took a knee during the national anthem in the 2016 season, prompting many fans to boycott the NFL in solidarity.
Another compared the percentage of African-American men shot and killed by cops so far in 2018 — 25 percent — to the percentage of the population they represent in the U.S. — 8 percent.
Backup quarterback Nick Foles, who reportedly was planning on attending the White House ceremony before it was cancelled, did not make an appearance.
He wasn’t only one. Only about a dozen players even came into the locker room during the roughly 40 minutes reporters were there asking questions.
Instead of welcoming the fewer than 10 members of the team who were reportedly coming for the post-Super Bowl visit, the White House hosted an event on the South Lawn it billed as a “celebration of the American flag.” It featured remarks from the president, performances by the United States Marine Band and the United State Army Chorus, and a crowd that didn’t appear to include many Eagles fans.
“I want to take this opportunity to explain why young Americans stand for our national anthem. Maybe it’s about time that we understood. We stand to honor our military and to honor our country,” said Trump.
Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that teams would be fined if players and other personnel didn’t stand during the national anthem, played before each game.