At least three players for the Philadelphia Eagles have announced plans to boycott their team’s expected visit to the White House.
Although most of the Eagles are expected to follow tradition and visit President Trump at the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots, wide receiver Torrey Smith, defensive end Chris Long, and safety Malcolm Jenkins have all nixed their participation in any such event. All three players are well known for their activism on behalf of and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to CNN, Smith explained his planned White House boycott as being animated by personal animus towards Trump:
Even before the Eagles won the Super Bowl, the wide receiver had already made it clear that he wouldn't visit the White House, citing his opposition to Trump. "They call it the anthem protest. We're not protesting the anthem," said Smith, who also raised his fist on the field to express solidarity with the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
Long, who previously skipped going to the White House in 2017 as a member of the then-Super Bowl champion Patriots, was more explicit in explaining his disinterest in visiting the White House. In an appearance on the sports podcast “Pardon My Take” on January 28th, Long responded to a question about whether or not he would go to the White House by curtly stating: "No, I'm not going to the White House." Long then mockingly asked: “Are you kidding me?"
Given Long’s past comments about Trump, his latest statements should not have come as a shock. In 2017, Long explained his Patriots White House visit boycott by suggesting that it would be evil for him to go to the White House while Trump is president:
"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?'"
For his part, Jenkins’s decision to avoid a trip to the Trump White House is likewise not that surprising given his leading role in social justice activism within the NFL. According to a laudatory profile of him that was published in the New York Times recently, Jenkins has been engaged in activism for Black Lives Matter-related causes since 2016. As a member of the Players Coalition, whose representatives were at the forefront of defending athletes protesting the national anthem last year, Jenkins helped pressure the NFL into pledging $89 million over the next seven years towards promoting left-wing activist causes (or, as NYT put it: “help grass-roots groups fight inequality”).
On Monday, in response to questions about him being present for an Eagles White House visit later this year, Jenkins told CNN: "Nah, I personally do not anticipate attending."
Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount, who joined Chris Long in skipping last year’s Patriots White House visit, will probably join his three teammates in their boycott, but has not yet made an official statement to that effect.
NFL players’ open political support for divisive anti-cop rhetoric that demonizes police as racist anti-black murderers does not seem to have translated into good ratings for their brand. Even though Super Bowl LII drew an audience of 103.4 million on Sunday, this number is a 7% drop from last year’s Super Bowl, which pulled in 111 million viewers.