Donald Trump disinvites Philadelphia Eagles from White House Super Bowl celebration
Trump later clarified that the event was being canceled because not enough Eagles player were attending the celebration.
President Donald Trump on Monday rescinded an invitation for the Philadephia Eagles to visit the White House on Tuesday to celebrate their Super Bowl victory over the national anthem dispute.
The Republican has been critical of the National Football League (NFL) players taking a knee during the national anthem before the game as a form of protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the country.
Trump had even called for the owners of the NFL teams to fire the players who were participating in the protest, calling the kneeling a "total disrespect of our heritage."
Trump, in a statement on Monday, said: "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 Republican president, however, added that the fans would still be welcome at the White House on Tuesday but for a different ceremony which was meant to "honor our great country" and "pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it," according to reports.
President Trump reportedly clarified later that the event had bee called off because "only a small number of players decided to come."
White House officials, while talking to The New York Times, said that fewer than 10 players from the team wished to attend the event hosted by the president.
Months before Trump rescinded the invitation, multiple Philadelphia Eagles said that they would skip the event in Washington, D.C. if an invitation from President Donald Trump is extended to them at all. The players included Eagles' wide receiver Torrey Smith, defensive end Chris Long and safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl championship this year in February, making way for a customary celebration at the White House. The team officials had left the decision to attend the event up to the players, reports state.
Multiple players for the New England Patriots — including Tom Brady — had also skipped their White House visit last year after the team won the Super Bown LI.
Former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who played for the team during the Super Bowl, slammed the White House decision of canceling the celebration and called it "cowardly."
"The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go," Smith wrote on Twitter. "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."
Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), after Trump's announcement, said that he would skip the ceremony too and said that he was proud of the team. He also criticized the White House for pulling a "political stunt" and extended his own invitation to the Eagles to tour the Capitol instead, according to reports.
The NFL announced its new policy last month, stating that the organization was barring kneeling during the national anthem and that it could fine teams if their players do not stand for the anthem. The organization, however, gave a choice to the players to remain inside the locker room during pregame ceremonies if they chose.
The NFL's move was criticized by several players, including the Eagles players. Long, at the time, wrote on Twitter that the move was "not patriotism. This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It’s also fear of the president turning his base against a corporation."
While the New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said that he would pay any fine handed to his team by the NFL and added that he would freely allow his players to kneel during the American national anthem without fear of any repercussions.