The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles will not attend the White House for the annual visit of the NFL’s title-winning team. The news came amid uncertainty about just how many Eagles players would attend the ceremony, the first such event since the league toughened rules on standing for the national anthem before games.
President Donald Trump made it easy for the Eagles today, essentially dis-inviting the team. Per a White House statement:
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.
The team acknowledged they were invited as early as April, but behind owner Jeff Lurie had been considering taking a smaller contingent to Washington D.C., giving players the option to attend or not.
The NFL’s tougher stance on the national anthem has been the source of much discussion among players and owners since it was announced last month. Under the new policy, all players and league personnel on the sidelines must stand for the national anthem before games or face a fine on their teams. At least one owner, the New York Jets’ Christopher Johnson, said he will pay any fines if his players want to kneel.
Trump was critical of kneeling players last season, calling them “sons of bitches,” and is in favor of the stricter policy.