Sports world sounds off on Eagles-White House controversy

Donald Trump

(Reuters) As the outcry following President Donald Trump’s decision to uninvite the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from the White House on Monday carried over into yesterday, the sports world was front and center.

And perhaps no person was more vocal than a member of the Eagles themselves, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. Long outspoken in social justice matters, Jenkins, who is black, began raising his fist during the national anthem in the 2017 preseason. Shortly after, teammate Chris Long, who is white, put his arm around Jenkins’ shoulder during the anthem.

The two teammates stood side-by-side that way before each game, all the way through the Super Bowl.

Yesterday, Jenkins tweeted a lengthy letter explaining why the Eagles players did not want to attend any White House ceremony, pointing out some of the charitable and social work Eagles players have done (including Long donating an entire year’s salary to charity) and accusing the White House of lying.

In particular, Jenkins took issue with the portrayal that players kneel during the anthem because they are anti-military and anti-flag and that Eagles players have knelt during the anthem. Several people — and Fox News — have claimed Eagles players knelt during the anthem last season when in fact none had. Fox News issued an apology and retraction later yesterday for using footage of players kneeling in prayer during a story about kneeling in protest.

As for Jenkins’ letter, it read in part:  “Simply google: ‘How many Eagles players knelt during the national anthem last season?’ and you will find the answer is zero. A similar google search will show you how many great things the players on this team are doing and continue to do on a daily basis.

“Instead the decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-Military.

“We will continue to fight for impacted citizens and give a voice to those who never had one.”

But Jenkins was far from alone.

In response to Fox News’ retraction about using the footage of players kneeling in prayer, another outspoken defensive back, San Francisco’s Richard Sherman, tweeted:

“It’s called Propaganda. It’s been used before but hey…. ‘those who forget history are doomed to repeat it’”

During an off-day media session yesterday, members of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were also asked about the controversy.

The Warriors, who lead the Cavs 2-0 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, have a unique perspective in that they, too, were uninvited from the White House following their NBA championship last season. Much like the situation with the Eagles, numerous Warriors players had indicated they would not be going to the White House if invited, then Trump formally withdrew the invitation after it appeared inevitable few if any players would attend.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was not surprised by the White House’s decision a day earlier.

“It’s not surprising,” Kerr said. “The president has made it pretty clear he’s going to try to divide us, all of us, in this country for political gain. That’s just the way it is. I think we all look forward to the day we can go back to just having a celebration of athletic achievement.”

Star Warriors player Stephen Curry said should his team win another championship, it would likely follow a similar plan to what it did last season with respect to the White House.

“I’m pretty sure the way we handled things last year, [we will] kinda stay consistent with that,” Curry said. Curry also agreed with LeBron James, who said that whether it’s Golden State or Cleveland who wins the series, the NBA champion will not be going to the White House.

“It’s typical of him,” James said of Trump. “I’m not surprised. … I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants the invite, anyways. It won’t be Golden State or Cleveland going [to the White House].

“It’s not surprising, hearing the news today with the Eagles,” James continued. “But I think more importantly we shouldn’t, as Americans and especially the people in Philadelphia, shouldn’t let that news take away from what that unbelievable team did and accomplished.

“Winning a Super Bowl or winning a Stanley Cup or winning a World Series or winning an NBA championship or a national championship is way bigger than getting invited to the White House,” James added, “especially with him in there, in my opinion.”

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