President Donald Trump took to Twitter last week to announce he had rescinded the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ invitation to the White House over the anthem kneeling controversy.
Several members of the NFL team had already announced they wouldn’t be attending the traditional ceremony.
According to ESPN, championship-winning teams have been honored at the White House since 1924, when Calvin Coolidge hosted the World Series-winning Washington Senators. While every president since has put his own spin on the tradition, President Ronald Reagan made it what it is today.
I played college football for a small school in Tennessee. We were pretty good, but winning a championship, much less visiting the White House, was never in the realm of possibility for me.
Today, I can proudly say I’ve had the honor of visiting the White House on multiple occasions during the Trump administration, and I have some pretty blunt advice for the young men who play for the Philadelphia Eagles: Man up, honor your team and your city, and use this opportunity to advocate the issues you find important.
Has the president said or done something to offend you? This is your chance to do more than rant on social media or get your name on the ESPN ticker for being the latest in a long line of folks complaining about this administration.
Now, you gentlemen are at liberty to disagree with the president, but this is the chance, maybe the only chance you will get in your lifetimes, to give direct feedback and make specific requests of the most powerful individual in the entire world. Seize it.
Like so many sports fans, Trump takes seriously the voices of those he watches succeed on the field. Don’t waste this opportunity for the sake of pride or stubbornness or a fear of what the media will say about you.
Last week, Kim Kardashian West used her position as a social influencer to advocate the sentence commutation of Alice Johnson, a grandmother who was given a life sentence on her first drug charge. The president obliged, showing he can be a reasonable, compassionate decision-maker when presented with the right argument.
Real progress comes when we bring everyone to the table and lay it out there. Kardashian West proved that anyone can work together with the president to make the world a better place. But you have to be willing to show up to the table in the first place.
The anthem kneeling protests began as a way to speak out about instances of police brutality and to shine a light on the need for criminal justice reform. But slowly, and with the help of the media, they morphed into a protest against the Trump administration in general.
If these football players believe in what they say, they should take a look at the direction this administration is going, particularly when it comes to criminal justice.
Just in the last few months, the administration has taken bold moves toward criminal justice reform by supporting the First Step Act, which will help to ensure those who come through the system leave with the tools to be successful in the outside world. The NFL players could go a long way toward making sure there’s a Second Step Act by going to the White House and working for reforms to reduce mandatory sentences.
There’s lots of work left to do, for sure, but NFL players only get so many chances to make their voices heard by this administration. It’s time for them to put aside their pride for the greater good of everyone, particularly those who look at NFL players as role models and show up to play hardball.