By Deena Zaru, CNN
(CNN) — Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith told CNN Tonight Tuesday “there are plenty of guys who said they do not plan on going” to the White House should the team participate in the traditional visit to commemorate their Super Bowl win.
Championship winning teams visiting the White House is a tradition that dates back to the 60s.
The Eagles defeated the New England Patriots on Sunday and are expected to be honored by President Donald Trump later this year, but so far, Smith, safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long have indicated that they won’t attend.
“For me, it’s not just about politics,” Smith said. “If I told you that I was invited to a party by an individual I believe is sexist or has no respect for women or I told you that this individual has said offensive things towards many minority groups … this individual also called my peers and my friends SOB’s, you would understand why I wouldn’t want to go to that party. Why is it any different when the person has title of President of the United States.”
Smith was referring to Trump’s comments at a September rally, where he launched a war against players who take a knee during the National Anthem to protest social and racial injustice.
Trump lambasted team owners for allowing the protests to take place, urged fans to walk out of games and told owners they should respond to the protesting players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
Smith is part of the Players Coalition, a group of NFL players negotiating with the league to address the concerns of those who protest. He said that Trump’s rhetoric on race, particularly the President’s response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, “helped” put the conversation around racism in America in the spotlight.
Although Smith has not taken a knee to protest, he said that former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick was a “genius” for doing what he did because “people talked about it in a way that we never heard and he never hurt anyone by doing it.” Kaepernick is credited with starting the movement.
“I have a lot of respect for him. You know, Colin Kaepernick is a person that history is going to look back on like he’s a legend,” he said. “He’s a legend to me and I’ll have his back any day of the week.”
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