Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie, whose team had their White House visit cancelled last summer due to most players refusing to go, laments how “polarized” society has become.
“We are in such polarized society today,” Lurie said at the recent NFL owner’s meeting in Phoenix.
Lurie believes NFL teams working closely with their players in the community, and on social justice initiatives, is setting a good example for a divided society.
“[It’s an] incredibly polarized society that if you can have a football team and its players as a partnership, you can really make a difference,” Lurie said. “It’s a great example I think in society that you can work together on things.”
Lurie has long viewed his players are partners, and is glad to see other teams now following suit.
“We always kind of had an approach where the players are our partners and we do so many things together, from community work, social justice initiates this past year,” Lurie said. “But we have a philosophy, the culture we want to develop, and we have a very close relationship with our players. I’m seeing it across the NFL now and it’s really great to see, and I talk to other owners that are having a very comparable culture and situation with their teams.”
Late in 2017, the NFL committed $90 million over seven years to social justice causes and all 32 NFL teams will contribute to this plan.
The Eagles have been very active on the social justice front the last few years.
On February 8, safety Malcolm Jenkins attended the Smart Justice California Retreat & Policy Summit to address probation, re-entry and mass incarceration.
On February 27, Eagles defensive end Chris Long, Jenkins and former teammate, receiver Torrey Smith, penned an editorial for USA Today on how Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s plan to stop seeking cash bail for some nonviolent crimes works and makes communities safer.
Long, Jenkins and Smith were three of the players who said they wouldn’t attend the White House ceremony last summer honoring the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl Championship. So many players backed out of the scheduled June appearance, President Donald J. Trump cancelled the ceremony.
It’s unclear why so many players refused to go to the White House. Some people think, including Trump, it was related to the President’s heavy criticism of a few NFL players kneeling during the anthem before games in 2016 and 2017.
Trump tweeted, “The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”
Smith claims Trump’s criticism of anthem kneeling wasn’t the reason most players didn’t want to go.
“There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views; the men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go,” Smith said. “It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.”
Whatever the reasons for the cancelled White House visit, Lurie thinks it’s time for people to come together.
“You don’t need to have a polarized position,” Lurie said. “We can do so many great things together, if we work together.”