Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made it clear Wednesday the team is ready to move on from the disinvitation controversy, choosing not to engage in a back-and-forth war of words with the White House.
“It’s over. It’s behind us. We are moving on,” Coach Pederson told a room full of about two dozen reporters, a busier room than usual for practice. The coach joked, “Glad to see so many people for an OTA practice. Welcome.”
Peterson said he was disappointed when he found out Monday night the ceremony at the White House to honor Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl victory was canceled by the president.
“I was looking forward to going down. Obviously, you know we did something last season that was very special. It’s a milestone here in the city of Philadelphia, our organization and I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions,” Pederson said. “It is what it is. We are here today, we’ve got an OTA [organized team activity] practice in these next couple days getting through next week and onto training camp. So that’s where we are at.”
According to the White House, the Eagles initially promised 81 people would attend the ceremony, but then called the next day to say only a handful wanted to go. On Wednesday afternoon, Pederson refused to challenge the White House’s version of events.
“I was looking forward to it,” Pederson said, when asked if other championship teams should stop from going to the White House. “You win a World Championship and an NCAA Championship or any championship you want to be recognized in that way.”
Before Pederson’s comments, the only official statement from the football team came on Twitter, which did not mention the White House or the ceremony.
The coach’s comments come a day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders blamed the Eagles organization for the whole debacle — accusing the NFL organization for acting with bad faith in attempting to reschedule the ceremony at the last moment, and pulling a “political stunt” intended to embarrass the President.
Sanders even accused the team of abandoning up to 1,000 Eagles fans, who had made plans to attend the ceremony on Tuesday. When asked about how Philadelphia fans should handle this controversy, Pederson thanked fans for their support.
“We’ve got the greatest fans in the National Football League,” he said.
The Eagles head coach said he was only speaking for himself, and not the players, but he insisted his players weren’t speaking about the incident at practice.
President Trump said he canceled the event after he was told only a handful of players were going to show up. He said it was because of his insistence that players stand for the National Anthem.
NFL players accuse the president of trying to play to his political base, conflating the National Anthem protest for the purposes of sowing division.
Players took to Twitter on Tuesday, underscoring the point that this isn’t about the National Anthem – noting no Eagles players kneeled during the regular season or playoffs last season.
Philadelphia Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins, a leader on the team, posted a letter on Twitter that read, in part:
“…the decision [by the White House] was made to lie, and paint picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag, and anti-military. We will continue to fight for impacted citizens and give a voice to those who never had one.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Jenkins did not speak but held up posters. The first one said: "You aren't listening." Another showed how many people were shot by police this year and another said former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick gave $1 million to charity. Jenkins was silent as reporters peppered him with questions.
Coach Pederson has lauded Jenkins for his work in the community and said the team stands united.
In lieu of the canceled Super Bowl ceremony, the White House hosted a “Celebration of America” in which God Bless America and the Star Spangled banner were played by the U.S. Marine Band and Army Chorus.