The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ White House visit has been canceled due to the controversy over standing for the national anthem at NFL games, President Donald Trump announced Monday.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”
Last month, the NFL announced it would require athletes to stand during the national anthem in response to players who took a knee as protest to what some players see as the systemic oppression of people of color, including by police.
The movement was initially started by Colin Kaepernick, who was formerly with the San Francisco 49ers. He drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.
Trump has repeatedly criticized players for not standing for the anthem and has gone as far as to say team owners should fire players for doing so.
The new NFL policy gives players the option of remaining in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they do not wish to comply.
Players on the Eagles are some of the most outspoken social justice activists in the NFL, and multiple players took part in the protests during the anthem over the last two seasons. Many players from the team were not planning on attending the ceremony as a protest of Trump, his policies and his outspoken criticism of players who chose to kneel during the anthem.
The Eagles were originally invited to the White House after their win in February’s Super Bowl over the New England Patriots. It was the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Trump said in Monday’s statement that the fans are still welcome to come and partake in a “different kind 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,” he said.
Trump said he will be at the ceremony alongside the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus at 3 p.m. Tuesday to “celebrate America.”