PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson faced the media Wednesday for the first time since the team’s trip to the White House was called off by President Donald Trump.
Pederson opened his press conference saying he would make a ‘blanket statement’ about the White House matter before moving on to other team business.
“I was looking forward to going down, obviously,” Pederson began. “We did something last season that was very special. It was a milestone here in the city of Philadelphia, and in our organization. I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions. It is what it is.”
Tuesday afternoon, the White House released a statement saying the Eagles had originally agreed to send 81 people, including, players, staff, and management, before attempting to reschedule for days the president had planned to be overseas. After both sides worked to accommodate a smaller number of Eagles representatives, the White House said the Eagles offered to only send a “tiny handful” of team representatives.
At that time, the decision was made to cancel the event, and the White House claimed the Eagles organization had “abandoned their fans.”
Pederson was asked about the White House’s statement on Wednesday.
“That’s fine. I’m not discussing it. It’s over. What you’ve seen and what you’ve heard is enough,” Pederson said in response, “I’m not gonna stand here and discuss it because we’ve got two OTA practices, we’ve got a mandatory camp next week, and I’m focused on that.”
Reporters then asked the Super Bowl winning head coach about the attitude of the team in the wake of the incident.
“We’re united. We’re a team. Been that way since I’ve been here,” Pederson said before explaining that the team’s focus was on next season.
Pederson later explained that nobody on the team was discussing the cancelation at Tuesday’s practice. He also refused to comment on the specifics of how many players were expected to attend the White House visit prior to the cancelation.
“For us it’s all about team and unity.”— Kristen Rodgers (@KristenERodgers) June 6, 2018
Doug Pederson spoke very eloquently about the social outreach from players like Malcolm Jenkins and the leadership they bring to this team. pic.twitter.com/HiPWFXmARR
The issue has caused a stir among Eagles fans on social media with a wide array of opinions on how the visit was handled by both the team and the White House. Pederson addressed those fans in his press conference.
“We’ve got the greatest fans in the National Football League. When we had that parade back in February…,” Pederson said shaking his head, “Our true fans, they’re beside us. We’re beside them. We love everything about the people that come and watch us and support us, whether its at training camp or in the stadium. I can’t say enough good things about what our fans have done for us. The love and support we’ve felt all offseason and continue to feel.”
The team was scheduled to visit the White House Tuesday, June 5 before the invitation was pulled on Monday night by the president. Trump said in a statement Monday that some Eagles players "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."
None of the Eagles took a knee during the anthem during the 2017-18 regular season and postseason.
Shortly after the White House released their statement, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has been at the forefront of the team's off the field efforts, released a statement of his own.
Jenkins described some of the efforts he and his teammates have made over the last several years to make their community a better place, noting that Chris Long donated his salary to charity last season.
"It's not our job. No one elected us to do this. We do it because we love this country and our communities. Everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, deserves to be treated equally. We are fighting for racial and social equality," Jenkins wrote.
After canceling the Eagles’ White House visit, President Trump hosted a “Celebration of America” featuring music provided by U.S. military bands and choruses.