There wasn’t much doubt the New England Patriots would be visiting the White House last offseason. President Donald Trump is more closely aligned with the Patriots than any other professional sports team.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a much different case, and nobody seems sure when they’ll be going to the White House after winning Super Bowl LII.
The White House has been in discussions with the Eagles for the traditional trip, the New York Times reported. The Eagles had players involved with protests over social issues, most notably safety Malcolm Jenkins. Their owner Jeffrey Lurie is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Trump, and The Times reported that in a conversations about player protests during a league meeting last year, Lurie said it it has been a “disastrous presidency” while distancing himself from Trump.
This certainly isn’t the same and the Patriots trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady being closely tied to Trump and, at least in the case of Kraft and Belichick, publicly supportive of him.
“We have been in conversations with the Eagles about timing and are working with them to make it happen,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to The Times. “We hope to have something finalized in the next couple of weeks.”
An Eagles spokesman told The Times: “We have been in contact with White House representatives and are currently discussing the logistics of an upcoming visit to Washington. We are honored to receive this invitation and view this not only as an opportunity to be recognized for our on-field accomplishments, but also as an opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with the leaders of our country.”
The “opportunity to engage in productive dialogue” part of the statement is telling. If the Eagles make it to the White House, the political disagreements of those involved will be a big part of the story. Receiver Torrey Smith, said before last year’s Super Bowl that he wouldn’t be a part of a White House visit (Smith signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason). Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount, members of the 2016 Patriots and 2017 Eagles, skipped last year’s trip to the White House with the Pats and would presumably do the same this year. The Eagles players who don’t attend the ceremony will be a big part of the coverage of the trip. It also wouldn’t be unprecedented for the trip to never happen. The Golden State Warriors didn’t go to the White House after winning their most recent NBA championship, with the Warriors saying they wouldn’t go and Trump saying the invitation was withdrawn. And, of course, last season Trump decided to get in a public feud with the NFL over the national anthem issue. That complicates the issue further.
It’s taking a while to get the Eagles on the White House’s schedule. Last year, the Patriots visited on April 19. The Eagles’ trip hasn’t even been planned yet. When (if?) it happens, it will certainly be one of the more interesting visits by a sports team to the White House in recent memory.
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