WASHINGTON — A White House event to honor the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles was canceled after a large group of players decided not to attend.
NFL Network reported that quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was planning on attending, but fewer than 10 players altogether had confirmed they would attend the traditional event.
“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 White House said in a statement this evening. “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,” President Trump’s statement continued. “I will be there at 3 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
No Eagles players took a knee during the anthem last season.
Former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who now plays for the Carolina Panthers, tweeted that the statement contained “so many lies.”
“Here are some facts,” Smith tweeted. “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.”
“Here are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views,” Smith added. “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.”
According to depositions in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance lawsuit against the NFL reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Trump pressured owners to penalize players for taking a knee as a civil-rights protest during the anthem. “This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Jones said Trump told him in a phone call. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”
Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins’ owner, testified that he was “totally supportive” of the players’ right to protest “until Trump made his statement” to lobby the owners.
The new NFL policy says players on the field must stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room. Teams would be subject to fines for infractions, and can in turn fine players or staff.