The Associated Press reports today (June 5) that the White House scrapped a visit from the Eagles—a typical reward for championship-winning United States sports teams—for players’ views on protesting during the national anthem. The White House issued a statement from the president yesterday (June 4):
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.
The statement reflects the way that President Trump and many National Football League executives have framed players’ national anthem protests as anti-American, rather than anti-racist. It also suggests that Eagles players did not stand for the anthem, even though, as The AP notes, no starting team member ever actually kneeled during the 2017 regular season.
Trump’s rhetoric prompted immediate pushback from critics, including players from the Super Bowl-winning squad and Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney:
So many lies smh 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— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
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
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
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. City Hall is always open for a celebration. https://t.co/kU7LZkBNin— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) June 5, 2018
Philly’s @Eagles are champions on and off the field: Standing for greater civil and human rights and upholding an unwavering belief in justice for all. Philly stands with you! #FlyEaglesFly #WhyILovePhilly pic.twitter.com/iWNO5N50RV— Helen Gym (@HelenGym2015) June 5, 2018
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
Now Smoky, I ain’t the smartest woman in the world but maybe many of the Eagles were skipping The White House because the president called them “sons of bitches.” Sitting down w/ ppl who you disagree w/ is part of being an adult. Sitting down w/ someone who disrespects you? Nah.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 5, 2018