The White House is accusing the Philadelphia Eagles of abandoning their fans after President Donald Trump uninvited the team to the White House for what was supposed to be a celebration of the team’s Super Bowl victory Tuesday because players were boycotting the event.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders, in a detailed statement Tuesday, said after the team previously notified the White House last week that 81 representatives from the team would attend the planned celebration, Sanders says they later informed the White House that “only a tiny handful of representatives” would attend.
“In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans,” Sanders said in a statement. “Upon learning these facts, the President decided to change the event so that it would be a celebration of the American flag with Eagles fans and performances by United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus.”
The president, on the defensive Tuesday, took to Twitter to tout the “many championship teams” that he has hosted at the White House and referencing a recently updated NFL policy that allows players who wish to protest the anthem to stay off the field and in the locker rooms during the anthem, saying “NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!” In lieu of the Super Bowl celebration, the president is instead hosting what the White House is calling a “Celebration of America.”
The NFL’s rule change last month allowing players to remain in the locker room during the anthem should they choose was widely viewed as a capitulation to the president, but he has said that the policy does not go far enough – even suggesting that perhaps players who do not want to stand for the anthem should not be in the country.
“I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox and Friends” following the rule change last month. “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. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.”
In a statement Monday evening, the president said of the Eagles players that “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.”
While many of the players had elected not to attend Tuesday’s celebration at the White House, no Eagles players actually kneeled in protest during the anthem last season.