Many Cincinnati Bengals were reluctant to comment on President Donald Trump canceling the White House celebration for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, but one was willing to weigh in even when he wasn’t asked.
After overhearing a reporter ask safety George Iloka if he would go to the White House if invited, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick offered an emphatic, “Hell no” from one locker over.
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Then Iloka echoed the sentiment.
“I wouldn’t go. Hell no,” he said.
But Iloka said his opinion was formed long before Trump uninvited the Eaglesand issued the following statement after the majority of the players on the team said they would not attend:
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. They 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. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
“Of all the things he’s said and done, this is the least offensive thing,” Iloka said. “Saying I wouldn’t go isn’t really me making a statement, it’s just, I go where I’m welcome.”
Backup quarterback Matt Barkley, who played for the Eagles in 2013 and 2014, said he hasn’t talked to any of his former teammates since the controversy began Monday night. But he said he would accept any invitation to visit the White House.
“I would go,” Barkley said. “It’s unfortunate the whole team can’t go. I mean, I get the big picture, but there’s a lot of different moving pieces to that puzzle.”
Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton was one of the players who said he’d rather not comment on the issue.
“I don’t know all the details of what had gone on and why things happened the way they did, so I don’t really have much of a comment on it,” Dalton said. “But obviously we want to get to the point where we have the ability to make that decision.”