PHILADELPHIA – The confrontation between players of the National Football League and US President Donald Trump continues after the chief executive again insisted before Super Bowl 52 that everyone stand up for the playing of the National Anthem.
The players complied. This time no one dared kneel down when the singer Pink intoned the anthem, but even so, the television audience for the big game – won by the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33 over the New England Patriots – lost 7.1 percent of its viewers compared with the year before.
Trump didn’t wish to predict a possible outcome of the contest nor give an interview for the game’s television broadcast on the NBC network.
The US president has been highly critical of the NFL and during a rally in Alabama urged the teams’ owners to fire any players who refuse to stand for the anthem.
And now, since every year the championship teams of different sports traditionally make a visit to the US president in the White House, this year at least three Eagles players have said they’re not going.
Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, defensive lineman Chris Long, who skipped the White House visit while with the Patriots last year, and wide receiver Torrey Smith have already said they would not meet with the president if invited.
The tradition of sports teams visiting the White House goes back to Aug. 30, 1805, when President Andrew Jackson welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball teams.
President Ulysses S. Grant received the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869.
The first Super Bowl champ to enter the White House was the Pittsburgh Steelers, which accompanied the winners of the World Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates, on a joint visit to Jimmy Carter in 1980.
But it was Ronald Reagan, with his public relations expertise, who made the visits of championship teams into a White House tradition – which included the least formal of all those occasions when New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson dumped a bucket of popcorn on Reagan during his visit.