The White House issued a statement on Monday appearing to cancel Tuesday’s planned visit by the Philadelphia Eagles to celebrate their Super Bowl victory.
“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. These 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. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
Trump later tweeted from his personal account confirming that the event had been canceled while saying that staying in the locker room during the national anthem is disrespectful.
‘Most — if not all — of the black players’ planned to skip White House visit
NFL Network reported that the Eagles had planned to send a smaller contingent to avoid putting players “in a tough spot” prior to the cancelation.
ESPN reports that “most — if not all — of the black players” from the Eagles planned to not attend the White House ceremony. The network also reports that the team did not learn of the cancelation until the White House release and that owner Jeffrey Lurie had planned to attend.
Eagles players critical of new NFL anthem policy
Some Philadelphia Eagles players have been outspoken about the NFL’s new national anthem policy requiring players on the field to stand at attention.
Several NFL players have used the platform of the national anthem to stage social justice protests centered around racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
Defensive back Malcolm Jenkins criticized the owners’ decision to “thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves” in the wake of the new policy.
Defensive end Chris Long criticized owners for being “afraid of the President” when they changed the anthem policy. Long has been supportive of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not received a new NFL contract since taking a knee during the anthem during the 2016 NFL season.
Jenkins, who along with Long and former Eagles receiver Torrey Smith have worked with Pennsylvania lawmakers to discuss criminal justice reform, told ESPN in February why he planned to skip the White House visit.
“I don’t want to take away from anybody’s experience or make it a big distraction,” Jenkins said. “It’s a celebratory event, and I want the guys who choose to go or whatever to enjoy that. Me personally, because it’s not a meeting or a sit-down or anything like that, I’m just not interested in the photo op.
“Over the last two years, I’ve been meeting with legislators, both Republican and Democrat, it don’t matter. If you want to meet to talk about events in my community, changing the country, I’m all for that. But this isn’t one of those meetings, so I’ll opt out of the photo opportunity.”
Trump has long criticized social justice protests from NFL players
Trump has long been a vocal critic of players staging social justice protests during the national anthem and is believed to have held sway over over the NFL decision to institute its new policy.
He had strong words at a September political rally:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted “#Winning” in response to the NFL’s revised anthem policy.
Former Eagles WR calls White House decision “cowardly act”
Smith, who signed with the Carolina Panthers in the offseason after playing with the Eagles last year, was quick to criticize Trump’s on Twitter Monday as “a cowardly act” and for continuing to “spread the false narrative that players are anti-military.”
U.S. Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania chided the move as a “political stunt” and invited the Eagles to tour the Capitol building instead.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called Trump a “fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size” in response to the White House decision.
The Eagles responded Monday evening with a neutral statement on their Super Bowl win.
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