Yesterday, the White House announced that the Philadelphia Eagles would not be visiting the White House in celebration of their Super Bowl win. The cancellation came after the Eagles notified the White House late on Friday that many players would not be in attendance, despite the Eagles giving the White House, just the day before, a list of 81 proposed attendees, including players, coaches, management, and support personnel. Sarah Sanders claimed the last-minute changes led the president to believe that this was a political move.
“The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better,” the White House said in a statement.
Instead of hosting the reigning NFL champions, the White House decided to hold a “Celebration of America” event for the 1,000 fans that were supposed to attend, an event I dropped in on. Here are five things you need to know.
1. The event was small. President Trump claimed that the event “was even bigger than we had anticipated.” If the administration believed that there would be 1,000 fans, then this cannot be true. There were hundreds of people, but certainly not 1,000, even if you included the press.
2. Many attendees were not Philadelphia Eagles fans. As someone just joining the White House press, I have already seen the hostility towards the media, and many people were understandably reluctant to talk to me until they knew which outlet I was from. However, most of the people I spoke with were not from Philadelphia or Eagles fans. Many attendees even openly admitted that they worked in different departments of the administration and were just invited to attend. This is likely due to the last-second changes and the scramble to fill up space after the cancellation.
3. There were Eagles fans there. Many different outlets and Twitter commentators are reporting that there were not any Eagles fans present or there were only a few. This is also inaccurate.
While there were many staffers at the event, there were Eagles fans there as well. During my short time outside, I met a total of seven Philadelphia fans and did not have a chance to talk to the attendees toward the front of the event. I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Killion, a Philadelphia native that recently relocated to Florida. He was attending the event because “my whole life I was hoping for a Super Bowl… so I feel blessed.” Killion claimed his son who works for the State Department gave him tickets to the event. See the interview below.
After press were hurried out, a group of guests remained behind that we were not given a chance to speak to. Those claiming there were few fans are jumping to conclusions before getting an extensive survey of the attendees.
4. The event was not much of a celebration. After the press briefing, most of the press hurried outside and arrived just at the end of the National Anthem. Before this, the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Army Chorus performed, and after this, the president delivered a four-minute speech. The music resumed, and then most people left. This was not a large celebration of America or a long one, again, likely because of the abrupt change of plans.
5. Attendees had mixed feelings. During the National Anthem, one man even knelt in protest.
Killion, on the other hand, was happy to be in attendance. “I would have loved for them to be here,” he said of his team. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity whether its for me or them,” Killion said. “I think they missed out on a great opportunity.”