President Trump appears to have disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles to a planned White House celebration after several players on the team refused to attend the event in a dispute over national anthem protests.
"The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow," Trump said in a statement released by the White House Monday. "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 team was expected to visit the White House Tuesday to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. Instead, Trump said fans were still invited to the White House, but that the celebration would be "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 followed up the statement with a tweet Monday night, saying only a small number of players were planning on attending the event. He also stated that when players stay in the locker room, instead of standing on the field during the national anthem, it was "as disrespectful to our country as kneeling."
The US Marine Band and the US Army Chorus will be heading to the White House Tuesday afternoon to play the National Anthem and other music, Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, adding, "NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!"
He went on to list the "many Championship teams" who have visited the White House.
Trump has been an outspoken critic of NFL players who chose to kneel during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in the US.
Torrey Smith, a wide receiver who played with the Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl team, retweeted an image of the White House statement, calling it "so many lies."
According to Smith, "not many people were going to go" to the White House celebration, and their decision not to attend was not just because of the ongoing debate over national anthem protests.
Members of the Philadelphia Eagles were among those who protested racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem last year.
Malcolm Jenkins, a safety for the Eagles, raised his fist during the anthem one form of protest. Defensive end Chris Long put his arm around Jenkins in a sign of solidarity.
After Trump's statement Monday, Philadelphia's Mayor Jim Kenney criticized the president's decision to disinvite the team, saying Trump was "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," Kenney said in the 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."
The protests in the NFL were sparked by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who began sitting during the playing of the anthem in 2016.
Asked about his protest, Kaepernick said it was in reaction to the oppression of people in the country, and referred to the killing of unarmed black men by police officers.
Kaepernick had also expressed respect for members of the military, telling reporters he had relatives who served in the armed forces.
He also decided to kneel, instead of sitting, in order to show respect for the military.
The NFL has announced that players who are on the field must stand during the national anthem, or their teams will face a fine.
On Twitter and at his political rallies, Trump has called for players to be fired or fined for their protest, even though players have insisted the protests are directed at police violence against people of color, and not meant to be a sign of disrespect against the flag or the military.
Tuesday was not the first time that Trump has decided to cancel his invitation to a championship sport team rather than being snubbed by athletes who decided not to attend in protest of his policies.
Last year, Trump also withdrew his invitation to the Golden State Warriors after the team began to debate whether or not to accept the White House invitation.
Stephen Curry, one of the team's most popular players, had told reporters he did not want to go to the White House and planned to vote against the visit during an upcoming vote between the teammates. The vote never took place.
On the day the team was scheduled to visit the White House, the team took a group of kids to an African American museum instead.