In a perfect example of how Donald Trump holds a grudge — sometimes for over a quarter of a century — he yanked back his invitation to the Eagles’ visit to the White House less than 24 hours before their arrival, but the Philadelphia Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl championship. What happened?
The commander-in-chief made it all about football players kneeling for the national anthem. Players knelt to peacefully and honorably protest police violence in black communities.
When Trump first saw NFL players refusing to stand, he told White House aides it would be a good idea to punish the NFL “as part of a GOP-tax plan.” Trump’s revenge was about more than kneeling.
Still, the Philadelphia franchise had zero players who knelt during the national anthem during their last season. A couple of players did express their feeling about the matter, though. There must have been more to it than kneeling.
Donald Trump bought the New Jersey Generals in 1984, in a rival football league (USFL) to the NFL. The Washington Post reported that he said:
‘I could’ve bought an NFL team if I wanted to. . . . But I’d rather create something from scratch. I feel sorry for the poor guy who is going to buy the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a no-win situation for him, because if he wins, well, so what, they’ve won through the years, and if he loses . . . he’ll be known to the world as a loser.’
Then, Trump used his millions to lure players and coaches away from the NFL. He also launched a hostile takeover attempt to merge the leagues, suing the NFL for alleged antitrust violations. One of the jurors said:
‘I thought he was extremely arrogant, and I thought that he was obviously trying to play the game. He wanted an NFL franchise. . . . The USFL was a cheap way in.’
Trump won — $3 — and the USFL disappeared into history, along with Trump’s $22 million. In the ESPN documentary, Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?, director Michael Tollin said:
‘Only Donald Trump could somehow turn the behemoth of the NFL into an underdog.’
He tried to buy the New England Patriots in 1988 and offered $1 billion for the Buffalo Bills, but lost. Trump told a reporter in early 2016 that he would not have gone after the U.S. presidency if he had won the Bills.
The Eagles agreed to send 70 people to the White House celebration, but that number soon dropped to fewer than a dozen. A surly Trump said he only wanted the team’s fans, the Army Chorus, and the United States Marine Band in the Rose Garden, playing the anthem “loudly and proudly.”
The president’s racism was responsible for the players’ decision to skip the visit, given his attitude on kneeling, racism, and that he created the birtherism movement. Trump doubted President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and presidency were real.
Executive director of Color of Change, the online civil rights group supporting NFL player protesters, Rashad Robinson told The Washington Post:
‘It shouldn’t be hard to understand why black players might not want to go to the house and shake the hand of or hang out with someone who made excuses for white supremacists in Charlottesville and has attacked their teammates.’
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders relayed Trump’s statement:
‘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 released a statement via Twitter:
‘It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. ‘
Former Trump aide Sam Numberg said:
‘He’s 100 percent beaten the NFL into submission. It’s quite a smart move for him because he opens the White House to the fans while making it about the national anthem.’
The NFL enacted a new policy last month requiring its players to stand for the national anthem or remain behind in the locker room until the song was over.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Alex Wong.