It’s hard to keep politics out of football when football keeps entering into politics, and we saw that crossroads meet yet again recently with President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ invitation to visit the White House. A subsequent press release from the White House blamed the team for disappointing its fans.
The entire event sent shockwaves through the sporting world, with players from all walks of American professional sports weighing in. It shouldn’t exactly be a surprise that the most attention was paid to the comments of two of the most prominent athletes in professional sports today, who both happen to be competing against one another for a championship right now.
Essentially, both Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors shooting guard Stephen Curry said that neither of them would want to be extended an invitation to the White House. The sense is that many athletes echo that sentiments.
One of them is Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who was asked about the team’s hypothetical reaction to a trip to the White House to celebrate another Super Bowl victory. The fourth-year player told Jacob Klinger of Penn Live that he would not go.
“People are going to have individual choices, but I wasn’t going to go because there ain’t no reason to go where you’re not welcome”, he said, but he was only speaking for himself, and he made it abundantly clear that he felt there was a diversity of opinions in the locker room.
Xavier Grimble questioned whether or not the team would be able to come to a consensus about attendance, and the fact is he is surely right. The most immediate example would be James Harrison.
He did not attend the White House ceremony for either of the Steelers’ most recent Super Bowl victories, and generally speaking, nobody really cared. George H.W. Bush was the President in office when they visited for their Super Bowl XL victory. Barack Obama, for whom Dan Rooney helped to campaign in Pennsylvania, was the sitting President during the team’s visit in celebration of the Super Bowl XLIII championship.
Still, this is definitely a much different situation, given President Trump’s very public and very vocal comments regarding NFL players. This was reflected in their fumbling of a coordinated plan for the pre-game ceremonies heading into their eventual Week Three loss in Chicago.
Personally, I would hope that the team learned from that mistake and would not try to seek a consensus action should they prove victorious during the 2018 season. And frankly I would be far too happy that they won another Super Bowl after a decade without one to care about who is where and when.