President Donald Trump announced Monday that the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles would no longer visit the White House as scheduled on Tuesday, citing the participation by some Eagles players in protest during the national anthem last season and the likelihood that not all players would attend the White House event.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”
Trump said Eagles fans are still invited to the White House “to be part of a different type of ceremony — 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.”
Trump added, “I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Chorus to celebrate America.”
Late Monday night, Trump continued his criticism of the Eagles. “The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House,” wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”
No Eagles players remained in the locker room during the anthem.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long regularly protested during the anthem last season, with Jenkins, who is black, raising a fist on the sidelines and Long, who is white, standing next to him and putting an arm around Jenkins’ shoulder. Several players around the league protested during the anthem by sitting, kneeling or raising a fist to draw attention to social injustice and police brutality.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has reportedly criticized Trump’s views on the protests. “Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,” Lurie said during an October meeting in New York that included players, owners and league executives, according to the New York Times.
Jenkins, Long and former Eagles receiver Torrey Smith, who is now with the Panthers, said either shortly before or soon after the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in February that they would not attend a White House reception because of their disagreement with Trump’s views of the protests.
The Eagles released a statement late Monday night, although it didn’t directly address Trump’s decision to disinvite the team.
“It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship,” the statement read. “Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season.”
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Monday that Lurie held meetings recently with players and didn’t want to put them in a tough spot, so he decided to send a smaller contingent of players. Garafolo said fewer than 10 players were set to attend.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that “a large group of Eagles players had decided not to attend White House, including most — if not all — of the black players.”
Smith retweeted Trump’s statement and wrote on his account: “So many lies smh . . . Here are some facts. 1. Not many people were going to go. 2. No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem. 2. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti-military.”
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, tweeted after Trump rescinded the invitation: “I’m proud of what the @Eagles accomplished this year. I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. @Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?”
U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle, a Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district, said on his Twitter account, “The @Eagles are still welcome to visit the U.S. Capitol. I will have @Wawa coffee waiting.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney harshly criticized the president’s decision to disinvite the Eagles.
“Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend,” Kenney said in a statement. “City Hall is always open for a celebration.”
The NFL last month adopted a new policy that requires players to stand for the anthem. If any player does not stand during the song while on the sidelines, his team will incur a league-administered fine. In addition, teams can fine players individually if they do not stand during the anthem. Players who do not wish to participate in the anthem can remain in the locker room, and no fines will be issued.
Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday after the policy was adopted that he would not fine any of his players if they decided to protest on the sidelines during the anthem. After a Jets’ offseason practice last week, several Jets players said they expected to stand with arms interlocked during the anthem, as they did last season.
Even after the new anthem policy was adopted, Trump continued to criticize the league, suggesting that players who remain in the locker room during the song “shouldn’t be in the country.”
This is the second time in recent months that Trump has disinvited a championship team from a White House ceremony. Trump rescinded an invitation for the 2016-17 NBA champion Golden State Warriors after star guard Stephen Curry said he was unlikely to attend.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” Trump tweeted. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”