WASHINGTON - The Philadelphia Eagles will not visit the White House on Tuesday after President Donald Trump rescinded the team’s invitation, citing several players on the team who planned not to attend.
A statement from the president released on Monday reads, in full:
“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. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed in May that the team would accept an invitation to attend the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl LII championship, adding that it would be up to each player whether to attend.
“It’s one of those things that, again, we’re working through a ton of things, but at the same time we understand that it’s an individual decision,” Pederson said at the time.
Several members of the championship Eagles squad, including safety Malcolm Jenkins, defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Torrey Smith — now with the Carolina Panthers — have been vocal about their plans not to attend any White House visit due to their opposition of Trump and his policies. Jenkins told reporters in May that he would travel to Washington with his teammates but not visit the White House.
Quarterback Carson Wentz said last month he planned to be at the White House, emphasizing the recognition of the Eagles’ championship achievement rather than any political aspect of the team visit.
Trump created an uproar from players in 2017 with comments objecting to player protests during the anthem, saying players who kneel during the anthem should be fired. The comments spurred many players throughout the league to kneel during the anthem the following week, and debate over the issue ultimately led to a new NFL policy passed last month that will fine teams if players show any form of disrespect during the anthem moving forward.
Trump voiced approval for the new policy after it was passed last month, saying in an interview with “Fox & Friends” on May 24, “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a sworn deposition as part of Colin Kaepernick’s grievance against NFL owners that Trump told Jones he was very concerned with the debate over the anthem.
“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Jones, according to the deposition. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”