President Donald Trump used the occasion of a planned White House visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to continue his attack on athletes who protest racial injustice. 

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: