Current and former NFL players hit back at President Donald Trump on Tuesday, calling him “cowardly” and asking when he will be impeached, after he abruptly disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from a White House event.
The Trump administration released a statement Monday night that implied the players were not welcome at the White House celebration of the Super Bowl champion team planned for Tuesday. Trump, in a tweet late Monday night, reiterated the decision, citing athletes’ protests during the national anthem and the small number of Eagles players who planned to attend as reasons for the last-minute cancellation.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who played for the Eagles last season, spoke out against the president in a series of tweets, saying the issue was never about standing for the national anthem.
Eagles players were not among the NFL athletes who took a knee or remained in the locker room during the 2017 regular season while the national anthem was played, according to ESPN.
So many lies smh— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
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
3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military pic.twitter.com/89GUNhJ4eE
There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go. It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
“It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish,” he tweeted.
Smith had previously said that he would not be attending the event at Trump’s White House. In a statement shared Monday night by Dave Zirin of The Nation, Smith explained that his decision was because of Trump’s record of disrespect toward women, minority groups and Smith’s peers.
Philadelphia Eagles wise receiver Torrey Smith said in February that most of his teammates wouldn’t go to the White House. Here was his reason. Sounds about right. pic.twitter.com/12vyVBn1LB— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) June 5, 2018
Malcolm Jenkins, safety for the Eagles, released a statement on Tuesday that defended him and his teammates against what he described as a smear attack by those who question their patriotism.
Jenkins, in addition to mentioning that Eagles defensive end Chris Long donated his entire salary last year to charity, shared a list of charitable acts he and his fellow teammates have accomplished.
“No one elected us to do this. We do it because we love this country and our communities. Everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, deserves to be treated equally. We are fighting for racial and social equality,” he said.
Instead of his teammates being recognized for their good work, Jenkins said, “the decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military.”
The NFL Players Association also said it is “disappointed” by Trump’s decision.
“NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place,” it said in a statement.
Tight end Zach Ertz and Long spoke out against Fox News’ coverage of the president’s announcement after the network showed photos of Eagles players kneeling ― but doing so in prayer, not during the national anthem. Fox News later apologized, admitting its coverage included “unrelated footage.”
Ertz slammed the network for using athletes’ prayer as “propaganda.” Long called it a “please the boss” effort that misrepresented Christian men.
This can’t be serious.... Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this... https://t.co/kYeyH2zXdK— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) June 5, 2018
Imagine wanting to please the boss so very badly that you run stills of guys knelt down PRAYING during pregame. Not one Eagles player knelt for the anthem this yr. Keep carrying his water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men. Aren’t many of your viewers.. nevermind https://t.co/QdlOvL0btq— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) June 5, 2018
Long also shared a point similar to Smith’s in which he said “most players” who wanted to skip the White House visit had made their decision before the NFL made it mandatory for players to stand during the anthem.
You’re complicit in PLAYING America. This is just another day at the office for you, though. Most players (and there were many players, many players...) that wanted to opt out had decided long b4 the anthem rule came down. It wasn’t discussed once in our meetings about the visit.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) June 5, 2018
Former Eagles wide receiver Cris Carter suggested in light of Trump’s decision that former President Barack Obama “should invite the Eagles to his house for a barbecue” instead. That idea drew more than 100,000 likes.
President Obama should invite the Eagles to his house for a barbecue.— Cris Carter (@criscarter80) June 4, 2018
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also spoke out about the president’s cancellation, saying it “only proves that our President is not a true patriot.”
“These are players who stand up for the causes they believe in and who contribute in meaningful ways to their community. They represent the diversity of our nation ― a nation in which we are free to express our opinions,” he said in a statement. “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.”
I’m proud of the Eagles on & off the field. Our players represent the diversity of our nation—a nation where we're free to express our opinions. Disinviting them only proves the President is not a true patriot.— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) June 5, 2018
City Hall is always open for a celebration. https://t.co/kU7LZkBNin
Other football players, both current and retired, also joined in with responses to Trump’s decision. Joshua Norman, cornerback for the Washington NFL team, tweeted: “Why is this impeachment taking so Damn Long.”
Why is this impeachment taking so Damn Long 😒— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) June 5, 2018
Damn. I woke up this morning feeling pure love for the @Eagles. And as a former New York Giant, that hated them completely, I don’t know how to handle it— OSI (@OsiUmenyiora) June 5, 2018
Avoided the military draft 5 different times, publicly disrespected POW’s and Gold Star Families, openly supports racist people, calls black athletes who peacefully protest SOB’s, grabs women by the p$$$y, yet NFL Players are the ones who are not patriotic? WE ARE IN A CRISIS https://t.co/CVybXsruic— Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) June 5, 2018
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.