Eagles fans put politics aside - temporarily - to unite for Super Bowl

Eagles fans came together across the city Sunday after the Eagles crushed the Vikings for a trip to the Super Bowl. Just two hours away, in Washington, D.C., politicians were pointing fingers during a government shutdown.

Shawn Ludwig thinks President Trump is a liar who just wants to divide Americans. Thomas Donohue thinks Trump is “the man” who deserves credit for the booming economy.

When it comes to political beliefs, the two couldn’t be farther apart. But one thing still unites them: the Eagles.

“The people you’re going to be arguing with on a Monday, you’re going to be high-fiving on a Sunday,” said Donohue, executive director of the Republican Committee of Chester County.

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Ludwig, a city councilman in Barrington, Camden County, said his 10-year-old daughter cried after Trump was elected. But, come game day, “the universe comes together. We’re all cheering for the Eagles.”

Camera icon Shawn Ludwig and Thomas Donohue
Shawn Ludwig (left, with his family), an Eagles fan who is critical of President Trump, and Thomas Donohue (right), an Eagles fan who says he supports Trump “100 percent.”

Fans from both parties view the team’s trip to the Super Bowl as a time to forget about dire headlines and the nation’s soap-opera politics, at least temporarily.

And that’s pretty remarkable, considering politics — and the mere question, “Who did you vote for?” — has turned friends and neighbors against each other, influenced who we do — and don’t — date, and tested people’s sanity in a 24-hour news cycle.

“Sports is kind of a release for people to be able to shut everything off and ignore what goes on in Washington or Harrisburg,” said Donohue, 26, who bought an NFC Champions hat and T-shirt after Sunday’s victory. Ludwig, 47, who kept his two daughters home from school Monday so they could watch game highlights together, echoed those thoughts: “It’s a nice break from reality.”

Of course, politics and sports sometimes still collide.

Kellyanne Conway, who grew up in the Atlantic County town of Hammonton and now serves as counselor to the president, tweeted #FlyEaglesFly on Sunday, drawing quick rebuke from people who pointed out Trump had called for a boycott of the NFL because players were kneeling during the national anthem. (Players said they did so to protest how people of color are treated by police and the criminal justice system.)

When Trump said in September those players disrespected the flag and should be fired, a group of protesters gathered outside Lincoln Financial Field to chant in favor of taking a knee. One Eagles fan, a white man, yelled to the protesters, who were mostly people of color. “I hate you! American made!”

The clash reflected stark political divides. In 23 years of surveying Americans, the Pew Research Center last year found the largest partisan gap ever in how Democrats and Republicans view racial discrimination, immigration, and the government’s responsibility to help people in need.

And on Twitter, the bickering between the parties is nonstop.

For Aracely Coronado, a vocal Trump critic, the Eagles represent a break from that. She left her phone upstairs during Sunday’s game.

“There was an ability to exhale just for a little bit,” said Coronado, 46, who lives in Mount Airy. “This whole past year, it’s just been a tightness in my chest and a range of emotions: Anger, angst, fury, disappointment. It just goes up and down, because you’re like, ‘Why are people so horrible to each other?'”

But the images of Eagles fans gave her hope.

Camera icon Elizabeth Robertson
Eagles fans celebrate on Broad Street near Shunk in South Philly after Sunday’s victory over the Vikings.

“There were people from all walks of life,” she said. “Everyone was just high-fiving each other, not caring where you’re from or what you think.”

Lynn Brown, a staunch Democrat who attended the game, embraced fans in jubilation knowing full well some may have voted for Trump — even though she refuses to date someone who did.

It was a fleeting moment of unity. Brown said she plans to surround herself with only like-minded people post-Super Bowl.

“It’s the most divided this country has ever been,” said Brown, 66, of South Philly. “I’m afraid it’s going to stay divided long after sports brings people together.”

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