Fans, Kenney, players react to canceled Eagles' White House celebration

Trump cited national anthem protests, but no Birds knelt last season.

Tim Jimenez
June 05, 2018 - 9:12 am
Super Bowl LII Champions Philadelphia Eagles Celebration

© Noah K. Murray

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Now that President Donald Trump has canceled the Eagles' Super Bowl celebration at the White House, what do the fans think?

Mayor Jim Kenney did not mince words as he came to the defense of the Eagles. After a school groundbreaking in Northeast Philadelphia, talking to reporters, he said White House or no White House, one thing is for sure: "Well, the Eagles are still world champions regardless of where they're going today."

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Kenney said the players have every right to protest. "Whether Malcolm Jenkins holds his hands up or somebody kneels, it's America; you have a right to express your feelings," he said.

He praised their work tackling issues like criminal justice reform, hunger and poverty.

"These are young men who don't have to do that, who can just make their big money and be big-time athletes and not care about anybody else," Kenney said. "But they do. They do care."

As for Trump himself, Kenney said he just doesn't get it and doesn't really care.

"He has a big concern about crowd size and size of things. That's him. He's a dysfunctional person that happens to be president," Kenney said. "Donald Trump is meaningless to this whole process. He's meaningless to the city and the city's success," he added. "He tries at every chance he gets to tear cities down, and eventually he'll be gone, one way or another, and we'll move on."

Some fans, like Tom from Philadelphia, say the event at the White House honoring the Super Bowl champs should have been canceled.

“I think the president made the right decision with less than 10 players deciding to actually go,” he said. “I think it was more to do with the number of people going rather than the reasoning behind it.”

Tom said he doesn't like the blending of sports and outside factors. “In most situations sports should be kept separate from politics,” he said.

But fan Phil Enoch says the president is the one making things worse. He says he’s glad the Birds aren’t going to D.C. 

“I’m not a big fan of his so from my standpoint. If you can’t go there and have anything positive to talk about maybe you shouldn’t go at all," he said. “He won’t have that venue where they’ll be able to talk about anything other than to make himself look good. Maybe it’s best that our Eagles stay home. Don’t want to give him that PR opportunity.”

Trump cited NFL player protests by kneeling during the national anthem, but no Eagles players actually knelt during the regular season and playoffs. Cornerback Ron Brooks knelt in the preseason, but he was eventually released from the team.

An updated and expanded statement from the White House seemed to walk back Trump's admonishment over kneeling. It makes no mention of the dispute over standing for the national anthem, and accuses the Eagles of abandoning their fans.

The Eagles themselves are responding. Zach Ertz and Chris Long are calling out Fox News Channel for showing photos of their teammates kneeling in prayer before games, giving the false impression they were protesting during the national anthem. 

Ertz tweeted: "This can't be serious.... Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this..."

Long went further, tweeting in part: "Imagine wanting to please the boss so very badly that you run stills of guys knelt down PRAYING during pregame. Not one Eagles player knelt for the anthem this yr. Keep carrying his water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men."

The photos ran during a Fox News segment Monday night after Trump' disinvitaton was reported. 

Fox News apologized on Tuesday. In a statement, an official with the network said, "During our report about President Trump canceling the Philadelphia Eagles' trip to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win, we showed unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer. To clarify, no members of the team knelt in protest during the national anthem throughout regular or post-season last year. We apologize for the error."

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KYW Newsradio's Ian Bush contributed to this report.