While the White House has issued two statements about the decision to rescind an invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, the team itself has stayed out of the fray by not releasing any official statements in response.
On Wednesday, coach Doug Pederson mostly kept to the same non-confrontational script, telling reporters that plenty had been said already, although he did take a moment to dispute the notion the team had done its fans a disservice.
“This is going to be a blanket statement, and then I’m not going to discuss it further,” Pederson began. “I was looking forward to going down, obviously. We did something last season that was very special. It’s a milestone here in the city of Philadelphia, our organization, and I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions. It is what it is. We’re here today. We’ve got an OTA practice. I’m focused on these next couple of days, getting through next week and onto training camp. So that’s where we’re at.”
“What you’ve seen and what you’ve heard is enough,” Pederson said when reporters tried to follow up.
Phillly.com reported fewer than 10 players planned to attend the ceremony at the White House, which was canceled by President Donald Trump in a critical statement Monday night. ESPN reported only five players committed to attending the ceremony.
A delegation was supposed to be in Washington on Tuesday, but Trump publicly rescinded the invitation Monday night, claiming the team didn’t show proper respect for the country during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner last season.
No Eagles players took a knee during the national anthem last season.
The White House went a step further in its follow-up statement, saying Eagles players “abandoned their fans” with more than 1,000 fans cleared to attend the event.
“We have the greatest fans in the NFL,” Pederson said. “... Our true fans, they’re beside us, we’re beside them. We love everything about the people who come and watch us and support us, whether it’s in training camp or in the stadium. I can’t say enough good things about what our fans have done for us. The support, the love we felt all offseason and we continue to feel.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that Trump viewed the move as a political stunt.
“The Eagles are the ones who tried to changed their commitment at the eleventh hour,” Sanders said. “If this wasn’t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn’t have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute.”
A statement from the president released on Monday reads, in full:
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. They disagree with their President because he insists 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. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better. These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony — one that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
Late Monday night, the Eagles issued a statement that made no mention of the White House.
“It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season,” it read.
—Field Level Media