Tom Sorensen

President Trump canceling visit by Eagles isn’t simple, but ultimate solution can be

Some of the athletes that were invited to meet President Bill Clinton refused to. Some of the athletes that were invited to meet President Barack Obama refused to.

Is it good manners to accept an invitation from a U.S. President whose philosophy varies wildly from yours? Does declining to meet the President imply a lack of respect for the office or for the man that occupies it? Is it hypocritical to shake the hand of a President, and then scurry to wash the hand with industrial strength soap?

I wasn’t offended when athletes chose not to meet Presidents Clinton and Obama. If you don’t want to spend time with a man, why show up? And if you fail to show up, why does that matter?

President Trump this week rescinded his White House invitation to the NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles when he learned that few would attend.

That’s the President’s prerogative, although it’s not fair to the team members who planned to join him. The photo op still existed. But instead of a mural, it would be a postcard.

Why did the evil Eagles decide to stay away? It had nothing to do with the overblown national anthem debate. The President has framed the debate in the most simple of terms. If you stand for the anthem, you are a true patriot. If you take a knee, or stay in the locker room, you are not a patriot.

Rarely is life so simplistic. But the issue plays well with some of the President’s constituents, and because it does the issue scares some NFL owners. The issue especially frightens the NFL commissioner, who lacks the confidence to step aside and allow his players to work the issue out.

The reason many of the Eagles don’t want to spend time with Trump is the same reason that some athletes didn’t want to spend time with Clinton or Obama. There are politicians in Washington, Raleigh and Charlotte with whom I’d decline to spend time. I suspect they’d get over it.

Maybe it’s time to stop inviting championship teams to the White House. Like relationships and tires, traditions can wear out. This is one of them.

Hoist the trophy, accept the adulation of fans and ride in the parade. And don't forget that visiting the voting booth will have a much greater impact than visiting the White House.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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