After their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, several Philadelphia Eagles players have announced their plans to skip the traditional team visit to the White House, citing President Trump’s divisive rhetoric surrounding the “take a knee” National Anthem protests that swept through the NFL in 2017.
“I personally do not anticipate attending that,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said during an interview with CNN’s New Day this Monday. “[I’m not sending] a message [to] the president. My message has been clear all year: I’m about creating positive change in the communities that I come from, whether it be Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, or this entire country. I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economic and educational advancement in communities of color and low-income communities. And I want to see our relationships between our communities and our law enforcement be advanced.”
“That’s what myself and my peers have been pushing for for the last two years, and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” he added.
Jenkins has been one of the most outspoken players in regards to the Anthem protests which were sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The protests were designed to bring attention to ongoing incidents of police violence against minorities. As ThinkProgress points out, Jenkins and the NFL Players Coalition struck a deal in November with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in which the league agreed to donate $89 million to “address social issues considered important to African-American communities.”
Philadelphia Eagles safety and Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins says, "I personally do not anticipate attending (a victory event at the White House)" https://t.co/y3iENKNvfu pic.twitter.com/kLZa2Wq2Vr
— CNN This Morning (@CNNThisMorning) February 5, 2018
Speaking to reporters last Wednesday, wide receiver Torrey Smith explained why he planned to forgo the White House visit.
“We read the news just like everyone else,” Smith said. “You see Donald Trump tweet something … We have those conversations in the locker room, just like everyone else does in the workplace.”
Trump referred to any NFL players protesting during the National Anthem as a “son of a bitch,” adding that they should be fired as a result.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted in September. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Trump doubled down in the same sentiment later that month during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired’?” Trump told the crowd. “Some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.”
In the Sunday before the Super Bowl, Trump pushed the issue again, saying that any protest would be a sign of disrespect to the families of military service members.
“Though many of our nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers,” Trump’s statement read. “We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
But Torrey Smith wasn’t having it.
“They call it the anthem protest. We’re not protesting the anthem. It’s a protest during the anthem,” he said.
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