US presidents have a long tradition of hosting the Super Bowl champions of the National Football League on the White House lawn a few months after the game. At the White House visit, the president usually offers up some good-natured ribbing of the players while accepting a team jersey with their name on the back. It’s typically a good time for all.
Donald Trump’s version, though, held this afternoon, may very well have been the least-fun Super Bowl party in White House history.
The Philadelphia Eagles were uninvited
The winning team was summarily uninvited by Trump on Monday night (June 4), when the White House learned that just a handful of players were planning to attend, after being promised over 80 team players and staff. No one knows exactly why so many Eagles decided not to come, although Trump backed a recent league rule banning players from peacefully protesting by kneeling during the pre-game recitation of the US national anthem. “Reasons vary from player to player because the president gives people so many reasons not to want to go,” one Eagles player told CNN.
Rather than cancel, Trump declared he’d hold a “Celebration of America” today (June 5) instead. It consisted of a band playing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” four minutes of the president’s remarks and a sing-along to “God Bless America,” (more on that below). Minutes beforehand, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders chose the unusual pre-party tactic of insulting the Eagles, accusing the team of staging a “political stunt.”
The guests were not fans
The White House said it invited 1,000 Eagle fans to the party. But there weren’t many Philadelphia jerseys, nor was there much green face paint. Most guests were dressed in grey suits and summer office dresses, the uniforms of downtown DC.
Tim Furlong, a NBC correspondent for Delaware and Philadelphia, noted that no one he spoke with could name the Eagles quarterback who led the team to victory in Super Bowl 52. (It was Nick Foles, who happened to be named Most Valuable Player of the game.)
In fact, many of the attendees were White House and congressional staffers—the ID-cards around their necks gave them away pretty easily. ABC reports they had been invited via an email blast the morning of the event.
The host got heckled
As the president took the podium, a heckler shouted “stop hiding behind the armed services and the national anthem” before the heckler was drowned out by boos. Another attendee took a knee during the national anthem.
…and flubbed the music
Part of Trump’s short appearance included mouthing the words to “God Bless America” as the Marine Corps band played behind him. The only problem there is that he didn’t appear to know most of the words:
Just seven minutes passed from the time Trump took the podium until he walked away. Just 20 minutes after the event started, White House-security staff members were telling reporters the event was completely over. There weren’t even any nachos.