Eagles' White House visit canceled: President Trump rescinds invite over anthem issue

The Philadelphia Eagles have been disinvited from their Super Bowl celebration at the White House. At roughly 7 p.m. on Monday night, President Donald Trump canceled the visit that was planned for Tuesday. 

In a statement released by the White House, Trump referenced the ongoing national anthem issue and debate, and said that he will hold "a different type of ceremony" to celebrate America for the 1,000 fans who planned to attend the event.

"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."

This is the second time in the past year that Trump has rescinded a White House invitation for a major professional sports team. In September, Trump withdrew the Golden State Warriors' invitation after he saw the team hesitate to decide if they'd attend the celebratory visit.

It's no secret that many members of the Eagles oppose Trump and his policies. Before and after beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl, players like Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, and LeGarrette Blount indicated that they would pass on the trip. In April, it was reported that the Eagles were discussing a possible visit with the White House, but hadn't committed to going. In May, the two sides finally scheduled the visit for June 5.

June 5 is Tuesday. So, Trump cancelled on the Eagles the night before the visit. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported that the team learned about the cancellation via the president's statement. They did not get a heads up ahead of time.

"A lot of people in the Eagles organization are very disappointed," a league source told ESPN.

Based on the statement, Trump wasn't happy with the Eagles' decision to send less than their entire team.  According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to send a smaller contingent as a way to avoid putting his players in a difficult spot. Garafolo reported that the contingent visiting the White House would've consisted of fewer than 10 players. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, "a large group of Eagles players had decided not to attend, including most -- if not all -- of the black players." ESPN's report did say that Lurie and coach Doug Pederson were among those planning to attend.

Smith, who now plays for the Panthers, criticized Trump's statement, calling it "so many lies." On Twitter, Smith wrote that (1) not many players were going to attend the visit anyway, (2) no one refused to go because of Trump's national anthem beliefs, and (3) Trump "continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military." He also characterized Trump's decision as "cowardly" and "foolish."

Meanwhile, Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania said he would skip the president's "political stunt." He also invited the Eagles to Congress.

And Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney invited the Eagles to City Hall in a statement that criticized Trump. Kenney responded again on Tuesday morning. Via CBS Philly: 

"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. 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.
 
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."

Trump's conflict with NFL players -- not just the Eagles -- dates back to last September when he called for teams to cut players who refuse to stand for the national anthem. And all of this, of course, began the season prior when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn't stand up during the national anthem as a way to protest racial injustice.

NFL players have continued to protest during the national anthem while Kaepernick, who fulfilled his $1 million charity pledge, has been unable to find another job in the NFL. Last month, the NFL passed a new national anthem policy that requires all players to stand for the anthem. Players who do not wish to stand are allowed to stay in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. After the rule was passed, several players spoke out against it -- including Long.

Trump, however, was mostly pleased by the new policy.

"I think that's good," Trump said. "I don't think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it's good. 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."

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights
    FREE ON ALL YOUR DEVICES