Before President Donald Trump took office, the sports world began to fill with discussions of whether championship-winning teams would want to make the traditional White House visits during his administration. As it turned out, among major sports leagues last year, the Warriors abstained while the Patriots, Cubs and Penguins went, albeit with some absences, but the Eagles present a noteworthy test case.
For one thing, they won the Super Bowl title after a season marked by Trump's repeated attacks on NFL players who protested during the anthem, with particularly inflammatory remarks by him leading to widespread Week 3 demonstrations that included owners. For another, Philadelphia has a number of players who have been outspoken in their criticism of Trump and their support for social causes, and several have long since stated that they would not visit his White House.
Then there's the owner of the Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, who was among those who joined players in the demonstrations. On the same day his team said it was "discussing the logistics of an upcoming visit to Washington," Lurie was quoted as having offered some distinctly anti-Trump sentiments last season.
That's according to the New York Times, which reported Monday that it had obtained a recording of an October meeting that included NFL owners, players and league executives. Lurie was said to have told attendees that many owners "have no interest in supporting President Trump."
"This is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one [expletive] disastrous presidency," Lurie reportedly added.
It remains to be seen how Trump reacts, if at all, to the comments published in a newspaper he loves to attack. In the case of the Warriors last year, Trump made a point on Twitter of rescinding the team's "invitation," after Stephen Curry said he and his teammates "don't stand for" the president's statement's and policies.
While the Times noted that Lurie followed his comments at the meeting by saying, "Don't quote me," a few of his players have been happy to put their antipathy to Trump on the record. In an April 2017 video, defensive end Chris Long said, "[When] my son grows up, and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is, I don't want him to say, 'Hey, Dad, why'd you go [to the White House] when you knew the right thing was to not go?' "
Long made a point of showing support for Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins while the latter was raising his first during the anthem last season, and Jenkins was among the leaders of a group of players whose negotiations with the league over the protests contributed to the October meeting. Jenkins has also said he would not visit the White House, as has Philadelphia wide receiver Torrey Smith, who called Trump "the most divisive person in this entire country" in a September tweet he subsequently deleted.
In February, Smith told CNN's Don Lemon that there were "plenty of guys who said they do not plan on going" on a possible trip. They include, per reports, running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Brandon Graham, and it seems a near-certainty that the boycott would also include recently acquired defensive end Michael Bennett, a former Seahawk who has been one of the league's most prominent protesters and supporters of exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
On Monday, though, an Eagles spokesman said the team has "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 spokesman added.
"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 (via the Times). "We hope to have something finalized in the next couple of weeks."
If the Eagles do make the trip, there will be plenty of attention paid to the amount of players who wound up staying away, as well as any interactions between Trump and Lurie. Of course, for a franchise that finally won its first Super Bowl trophy and first NFL title since 1960, it very much makes for the proverbial nice problem to have.