President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the traditional White House visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles over the NFL’s national anthem controversy, which is still boiling months after the season ended.
Instead, according to a Trump statement released by the White House, the Tuesday event would focus on America and the “heroes who fight to protect it.”
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” the statement read, according to NBC Sports.
“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,” the statement continued.
“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.”
Separately, the president tweeted that “only a small number of players decided to come” to the event, which had led him to cancel it. It sent a message to every NFL anthem protester — including the players who knelt for the song — that he was fed up.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
The Eagles had no players who actually knelt during the anthem. However, the team had one of the most visible anthem protesters in the league in safety Malcolm Jenkins, who routinely raised his fist in the air during the pre-game ceremony. In 2016, Jenkins said he was protesting the anthem “just to continue to push for the conversation about social injustice. And that’s a range of things from police brutality to wages and job opportunities to education.”
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, both Jenkins and Eagles defensive end Chris Long had made it clear they wouldn’t attend the White House ceremony, with Jenkins calling it a “photo op.”
It wasn’t clear how many Eagles planned to attend the ceremony, with some telling the Inquirer they would definitely be showing up. According to USA Today, Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz — who remains the team’s biggest star in spite of the fact he was injured for the playoffs and the team’s Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots — had indicated he would go if the majority of his teammates went.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson previously said he wanted to attend.
“I’m excited to be going to be honored as world champions. It’s a great honor,” Pederson said on May 17.
“We’re still working through some logistics right now, so we don’t have all the details today, but excited to be going.”
The team itself billed the White House visit as only part of its planned tour of the nation’s capital and made it clear it wasn’t pressuring players to attend.
As Monday progressed, reports seemed to focus on the Eagles only sending a small delegation to the White House to meet the president, leading to the cancellation of the event proper and its replacement with an event to celebrate American heroes.
A statement by the Eagles issued after the disinvitation focused entirely on moving forward without actually mentioning the fact they had been disinvited from the White House ceremony.
“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.”
There weren’t too many details about what the replacement event would entail. Monday’s announcement came amid a flurry of nominations sent to the Senate and the Trump administration celebrating 500 days in office (or, as a White House fact sheet touting the administration’s achievements called it, “President Trump’s 500 Days of American Greatness”).
However, it was the biggest sports story of the day — and yet another sign that the administration is going to continue to make disrespect for the anthem an issue.
As for the Eagles, they can always hope for another Super Bowl championship, but there won’t be a new president for some time now. And, well, quite frankly, they were one-for-52 before this.
This means their next White House visit, if history holds, could well be during the Barron Trump, Jr. administration.
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