June 06–There was a routine Eagles practice in Philadelphia on Tuesday and an unusual American flag celebration at the White House. So much for the previously scheduled ceremony in which the Super Bowl champions and President Donald Trump were supposed to gather in Washington.
Instead, America had another new spat to debate — POTUS versus NFL — plus a new wave of reaction from players around the league whom Trump continues to condemn.
At Halas Hall on Tuesday, as the Bears began minicamp, more than a few players were scratching their heads trying to make sense of how a championship celebration in the nation’s capital had unraveled in spectacular fashion.
“This is different,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “It would be great to understand where it’s all coming from. I don’t know.”
Added linebacker Danny Trevathan: “It’s just smoke blowing. … I feel like we’re going head to head with our president. I don’t think it’s supposed to be like that.”
The Cliff’s Notes version of this week’s flare-up: With a large contingent of Eagles players planning to skip the White House visit and vowing instead to do work within the community, Trump pulled the team’s invitation Monday night.
Included in an official statement from the White House press secretary was sharp criticism directed at the Eagles: “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.”
Another announcement came from the White House on Tuesday revealing a new event for that afternoon, “a celebration of the American flag” with performances by the U.S. Marine Band and the Army Chorus.
The Eagles, for what it’s worth, didn’t have a single player who knelt during the anthem in the 2017 regular season or postseason.
In Lake Forest, Bears players tried to understand the plot twists in this soap opera. Linebacker Sam Acho, the Bears’ representative to the NFL Players Association, again wondered aloud why players who have chosen to demonstrate during the anthem continue to have their purpose misconstrued.
“It’s up to people to use common sense and use your intelligence,” Acho said. “Use your brain and think about what the players are actually standing for, or kneeling for, or putting a fist up in the air for. If you just actually stop and sit and think, you realize … it’s to fight against injustice.”
Asked if he was surprised Trump had misrepresented the Eagles’ viewpoint on their White House decision, Acho shook his head.
“No, I’m not surprised,” he said. “Because when you look at people’s history, you start seeing themes.”
Acho cited a favorite adage of his: “People are going to tell you who they are; it’s up to you to believe them or not. So there has to come a point where you start believing who someone is and who they’re not. … An apple tree doesn’t produce oranges. Apple trees make apples.
“So if you start looking at somebody’s fruit, you start realizing, OK, I’m no longer surprised. I’d be a fool to be surprised.”
The embroilment Trump stirred up with NFL players traces back at least nine months. At a September rally in Alabama, the president rebuked players who had chosen to demonstrate during the national anthem.
“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. He’s fired!’ ” Trump said.
Two weeks ago, NFL owners voted to adopt a new national anthem policy, approving a league stance that requires players to either stand during the anthem or remain in the locker room.
Acho wishes the discourse on the topic could become more civil.
“People need to stop, they need to think and they need to listen and not be so eager to say, ‘Well, because you took a knee, you hate the military,’ ” he said. “That’s (being) sophomoric in your thinking. It’s too simple.”
Safety Eddie Jackson is among a handful of Bears who has visited the White House for a championship celebration. Jackson went with his Alabama team in March 2016 when Barack Obama was in office and reflects fondly on the experience.
“Coming from the place that I’m from and making it to the White House,” Jackson said, “man, that’s like a blessing.”
Jackson said he was surprised to learn of the Eagles controversy.
Trevathan attended a similar 2016 ceremony with the Super Bowl champion Broncos and recalls Obama pulling him aside to profess his Bears allegiance.
“I told him we were going to get him one,” said Trevathan, who had joined the Bears that March.
Trevathan said Tuesday he stands behind fellow NFL players who stand up for what they believe in and remains confused as to why those standing up for social causes have come under intense attack.
“We shouldn’t hold grudges,” he said. “We’re supposed to be getting better. We’re not supposed to be battling one another. … It’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hate that’s the way it’s going. Now we have to find a way to deal with it. It’s like everybody is attacking the NFL.”
Added Amukamara: “At first when President Trump started coming at the NFL (on Twitter), I wondered: Is this a joke, is it real, is this a fake account? Now, I’m starting to see, OK, this is serious. So what’s his problem with the NFL? … What’s his problem with the players? It has to be more than the anthem. There has to be something deeper down in the core, in the root of the ridicule he has for this league.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.