White House used interns to fill out crowd at Trump’s replacement Super Bowl event

What happens when fans of the team being celebrated don't want to come to the celebration party?

Attendees sing the US National Anthem in the "Celebration of America" at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 5, 2018. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images\
Attendees sing the US National Anthem in the "Celebration of America" at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 5, 2018. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images\

What happens when you throw a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl celebration party at the White House and no one wants to come? You send in the interns, who may or may not be Eagles fans, to make it look like the replacement anthem-and-flag hootenanny was fulfilling an actual need and not simply an empty, perfunctory exercise in fake patriotism.

Earlier this week, the White House cancelled their planned celebration hosting the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, along with “more than 1,000 Eagles fans.”

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According to an official statement from President Trump, the Eagles “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.”

Of course, according to the actual people who played for the Eagles, no Eagles players knelt during the anthem during the 2017 regular season, and their reasons for passing on the White House event had nothing to do with the anthem.

The White House’s statement disinviting the small number of Eagles players and staff who were still willing to attend the event — four to 10 people, including Swoop the mascot — ended with this plan for a new event:

In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans. Upon learning these facts, the President decided to change the event so that it would be a celebration of the American flag with Eagles fans and performances by United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus.

The White House’s whole rationale for holding the new event was, per the president’s statement, that “the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”

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“These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony,” the statement read, “One that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”

But according to the Philadelphia-area reporters who attended the event, there were not many of the Eagles fans that the White House accused the team of abandoning in attendance at the White House event held for their benefit.

Tim Furlong, a Philadelphia-area NBC reporter, asked a half-dozen people attending the event who played quarterback for the Eagles during the Super Bowl, and — somehow — none knew. (His name is Nick Foles, and he played well enough to win the Most Valuable Player award after winning the game.)

Typically, tickets to White House celebrations for sports champions are highly coveted commodities. But in this case, it seems that there was something of a behind-the-scenes scramble to build a crowd for the White House’s replacement event.

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In the effort to ensure a high enough Wins Above Replacement rating for this ersatz White House sing-a-long, multiple interns from at least one federal agency were invited to the event shortly beforehand and attended, according to a source from the agency who wished to remain anonymous to avoid professional retribution. The interns, who were not from Pennsylvania and did not talk about the Eagles or the president, received souvenir American flags. The source told ThinkProgress that in previous years, they had never witnessed interns called, asked, or invited to attend White House events.

The White House sent an email to all staff members inviting them to come to the event that morning. Many in attendance had White House badges tucked into their jackets and shirts. Reporters who asked people in the crowd who had traveled from Philadelphia received many blank stares.

RNC intern Jenna Webster told the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski, “we’re all staffers,” and that the White House had sent a mass email that day with an invitation to attend the event.

“She was not visibly bothered that the Eagles had abandoned her,” Sielski reported.

Two guests, in fact, knelt during the event’s rendition of the National Anthem — one of whom was directly in front of Trump, shouting, “stop hiding behind the armed services and the National Anthem, let’s hear it for the Eagles,” according to the Daily Mail.

Trump did not mention the Eagles during the event. Instead, he boasted of economic growth, argued that standing for the National Anthem was equivalent to having respect for the military, and sang some, but not all, of the words to “God Bless America.”

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In their official response to the event’s cancellation, the Philadelphia Eagles organization professed gratitude for “all the support” their fanbase provided during their “thrilling” Super Bowl season, pledging to focus on “preparations for the 2018 season.” In April, audio obtained by the New York Times from an NFL meeting featured Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie referring to the Trump administration as “one disastrous presidency.”

Current Eagles players are placing their focus on matters of greater significance than  publicly commenting on the anthem issue or the scrapped visit to the White House.

Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins held a press conference at his locker on Wednesday wherein any question about the White House or politics was met with a compelling series of signs discussing social justice, the policy changes pushed by NFL players, and their work with local charities. One of Jenkins’ signs simply read, “You aren’t listening.”