President Donald Trump said, in a statement, that the Philadelphia Eagles team is “unable” to attend a White House ceremony this afternoon because they don’t agree with his belief that NFL players should “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 president’s announcement was made Monday evening, just under 24 hours before the 3 p.m. scheduled meeting, Fox News reported.
Players Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Torrey Smith previously said they would not attend.
“The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better,” the president said in a statement. “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. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
Monday night, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump hosted Gold Star families at the White House – those who have an immediate family member who was killed while serving in the military during wartime, Breitbart reports.
Late Monday night, the president took to Twitter to elaborate on his decision to disinvite the Eagles:
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
President Trump has been a strong proponent for standing during the playing of the national anthem. The NFL recently updated its policy on standing for the national anthem in response to the debate over the issue. NFL owners have admitted that the president’s stance influenced their decision to change their policy.
Among other sports teams, the Golden Sate Warriors abstained while the New England Patriots, Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Penguins went, albeit with some absences, The Washington Post reports.
The paper in April cited the New York Times, which reported that it had obtained a recording of a meeting in which Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was said to have told attendees that many owners “have no interest in supporting President Trump.”
“This is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one [expletive] disastrous presidency,” Lurie reportedly added.
“Reportedly, there were only about 10 members of the Philadelphia Eagles organization who were planning to show up for the White House celebration of their Super Bowl victory,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill said, referring to published reports that team owner Lurie had decided to send only 10 members of the team to the White House.
“The vast majority of the team decided to use the occasion to make some sort of political statement, and President Trump wisely decided not to allow them to disrespect the White House and the office of the President in that way. They are the ones who politicized the event, not President Trump,” Gill added.
“Politicizing sports is not winning the hearts and minds of fans, who have long looked to sports as an escape, not a desire to subject themselves to lectures by pampered and self-absorbed athletes. Dismal ratings and empty seats are showing how fans are responding, and yet the major sports franchises seem to be oblivious to reality,” Gill concluded.
Democratic politicians around the country were eager to further politicize the president’s decision to disinvite the Eagles.
Jim Kenney, the Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia, a city Hillary Clinton won in 2016 with 82 percent of the vote, released a vitriolic political attack on President Trump late Monday.
“The Eagles call the birthplace of our democracy home, so it’s no surprise that this team embodies everything that makes our country and our city great. Their athletic accomplishments on the field led to an historic victory this year. Fans all across the country rallied behind them because we like to root for the underdog and we feel joy when we see the underdogs finally win,” Kenney said in a statement.
“I’m equally proud of the Eagles’ activism off the field. These are players who stand up for the causes they believe in and who contribute in meaningful ways to their community. They represent the diversity of our nation—a nation in which we are free to express our opinions,” Kenney continued.
“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. City Hall is always open for a celebration,” the Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia concluded.
Hillary Clinton won Philadelphia over President Trump by 445,000 votes, but that large margin was not enough to help her win the state’s 20 electoral college votes, which Trump won with a 68,000 vote margin, powered by huge support among the Keystone State’s rural and blue collar voters outside of Philadelphia.