Four months after their Super Bowl LII triumph, the Eagles again were the talk of the sports world, in the wake of President Trump's cancellation.of their planned White House visit Tuesday.
At the NBA Finals in Cleveland, LeBron James said that "as Americans and especially people in Philadelphia, we shouldn't let that news take away from what that unbelievable team did and accomplished, what all those players did to sacrifice throughout each and every Sunday, going out and playing the style of football that they played and winning a Super Bowl the way they won it."
James sought to assure the Eagles that winning a championship is "way bigger than being invited to the White House, especially with him in there, in my opinion."
James and the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry said that no matter who wins the NBA title, no one will be visiting Trump.
The Eagles decided to revert to their original plan, before the invitation to Washington arrived, making Tuesday the more common sort of Organized Team Activity – the kind that involves jerseys and footballs, not trains and buses. Reporters were not allowed at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday but will be present Wednesday, when the aborted celebration is sure to remain a potent topic.
A team spokesman was asked whether the organization had any reaction to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accusing the team of a "political stunt" — the Eagles last week allegedly submitting a list of attendees that contained 81 names, then amending that list to fewer than 10 on Monday. The spokesman said he didn't think the team would issue any statement beyond what it said Monday evening, when it said that celebrating the Eagles' first Super Bowl title has been "incredibly thrilling," and that "watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration." The statement did not mention Trump or the White House visit.
>>READ MORE: Trump, White House celebrate without Eagles
On Monday, as a few Eagles representatives worked through details of the visit in Washington, administration officials realized that fewer than 10 players were planning to join the contingent, led by team chairman Jeffrey Lurie. This led Trump to rescind the champs' invitation on Monday evening, but he didn't just quietly cancel the event, he tweeted, "They 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."
In fact, no Eagles were taking part in anthem protests by the end of last season, and no Eagles knelt last season; for a while, Malcolm Jenkins led a protest that involved raised fists. Eagles players who said they wouldn't go to the White House disagreed with Trump on much more than the right to protest during the anthem.
Later Monday, Trump continued to try to frame the Eagles' reluctance to appear with him around the anthem issue, tweeting that "staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!"
This was a reference to the NFL owners' recent adoption of a policy for 2018 that requires players to stand for the anthem or see their teams fined, but allows them the option of staying in the locker room during the ceremony. No Eagle has stayed in the locker room during an anthem, or announced any plans to do that this season.
Tuesday morning, the NFL Players' Association released this statement: "Our union is disappointed in the decision by the White House to disinvite players from the Philadelphia Eagles from being recognized and celebrated by all Americans for their accomplishment. This decision by the White House has led to the cancellation of several player-led community service events for young people in the Washington, DC area.
"NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place."
Malcolm Jenkins took to Twitter on Tuesday to give his view of what the protest struggle has been about, and what players are trying to achieve. Clearly, Jenkins objects to Trump's insistence that the issue is disrespect to flag and troops: "Instead [of acknowledging the players' efforts in the community,] the decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military," he said.
Fox News, the president's favorite information source, covered the controversy by using photo clips of Eagles players, including Zach Ertz, kneeling in prayer; the implication was that they were kneeling to protest the anthem. Later, Fox News issued an apology for this, which Chris Long did not find compelling. "Fox News used the faith of Christian men dishonestly to push an agenda," Long tweeted. "That wasn't an 'error,' but intentional and strategic."
Long underscored the kind of commitment to community Jenkins spoke of by taking 20 minutes between meetings Tuesday to speak via Skype with about 100 seventh-graders at DeMasi Middle School in Marlton, N.J. The kids had done a fundraiser for Long's "Waterboys" charity,which builds wells in East Africa, after social studies and science classes studied the book A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Park.
"The kids got a memory today," said social studies teacher David Austin, who said he'd hoped to ask Long about the aborted White House visit, but ran out of time. "That means a lot to us as teachers, that they were able to have that. He is just such a gracious guy, and such a good guy when it comes to his feeling of obligation to the community … I think the kids really got a sense of that today. It's a great culmination of the work we did during the year, a great capper to the year."