PHILADELPHIA — Eagles coach Doug Pederson expressed disappointment that his team was not able to participate in the White House ceremony to celebrate their Super Bowl championship, but he tried to push past the controversy after the Trump administration canceled Tuesday’s visit and accused the Eagles of a “political stunt.”
“This is going to be a blanket statement, and then I’m not going to discuss it further,” Pederson said at his Wednesday morning news conference. “I was looking forward to going down, obviously. 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. It is what it is. We’re here today, got an OTA practice. I’m focused on these next couple days, getting through next week and onto training camp. That’s where we’re at.”
That did not stop the questions about the nixed White House trip from being asked. The NovaCare auditorium was filled with national media. Pederson’s news conference was broadcast live on cable news networks. “Glad to see so many people for an OTA practice,” Pederson joked. “This is great. Welcome.”
Pederson is the first to address the media since White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she sensed “a lack of good faith” from the Eagles during discussions leading up to the event and charged the team with pulling “a political stunt” by telling the White House on the day before the scheduled visit that a small number of players would be attending.
“That’s fine,” Pederson said when reminded of those remarks. “I’m not discussing it. It’s over. What you’ve seen and what you’ve heard is enough.”
The team had been deliberating for weeks about how to best approach the trip to make it an experience the players could agree on and share together. A large group of Eagles players ultimately decided not to attend, including most — if not all — of the black players, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.
Given the complexity of the matter, Eagles brass ultimately decided to send a small player contingent, according to sources, which was believed to include Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. A source told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that owner Jeffrey Lurie and coach Doug Pederson also were planning on making the trip.
Upon learning these facts, Trump decided to change the event so that it would be a celebration of the American flag, with Eagles fans and performances by the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus.
“I was looking forward to it. Listen, you win a world championship or an NCAA title or anything, you want to be recognized that way,” Pederson said, when asked if teams should just stop going to the White House altogether. “I think it’s great. But I’m not going to speak for other teams. I was looking forward to it.”