PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media for the first time since President Donald Trump canceled the team’s White House visit to celebrate their Super Bowl championship. Pederson said he was looking forward to the visit so the franchise could be recognized as champions.
“I was looking forward to going down, obviously. We did something last season that was special, it was a milestone here in the city of Philadelphia, our organization and I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions. It is what it is,” the Eagles head coach said.
The president initially canceled the visit on Monday night, citing the National Anthem controversy. However, on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the Eagles pulled a “political stunt” by trying to only send a “tiny handful of representatives” to the White House after wanting to reschedule.
“To me not going to the White House had nothing to do with the Anthem. I said I wasn’t going to the White House a long time ago,” said Chris Long during an interview on Wednesday.
Long says the team couldn’t be any closer.
“We’re like 100 percent unified going into this week, so it’s mathematically impossible to be any more unified,” Long added.
Malcolm Jenkins who peacefully demonstrated on the sidelines last season let his signs do the talking today, never uttering a word, but held signs that read, “You’re not listening,” followed by specific statistics linked to mass incarceration, police brutality and calls for criminal justice reform.
Pederson would not delve into the details about Trump canceling the visit.
“I’m not discussing it, it’s over,” said Pederson. “What you’ve seen and what you’ve heard is enough. I’m not going to stand here and discuss it because we got two OTA practices, I got a mandatory camp next week and I’m focused on that.”
Pederson also touched on Jenkins’ statement where he said the White House wanted to paint them as “anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military.”
“He’s done so much,” Pederson said about Jenkins. “Very passionate, obviously not only with this football team, but in the community. He’s got a great drive, great motivation, love what he’s been doing. I stand by him and for us it’s all about team and unity and supporting our guys and that’s one thing I love about this team.”
After canceling the visit, Trump threw a brief “Celebration of America” ceremony on Tuesday.
Trump tried to turn the fracas into a referendum on patriotism and tie it to the dispute over players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. However, Eagles players never knelt during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” throughout the 2017 season and their march to the Super Bowl.
Trump had long been leery of the Eagles’ planned visit to the White House, in part because the team’s owner, Jeffrey Lurie, has been a Trump critic, and because several players have been vocal critics of the league’s new policy that requires players to stand if they’re on the field during the national anthem or else stay in the locker room.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)