The White House announced Monday night that the Philadelphia Eagles had been disinvited from a Super Bowl celebration hours before it was to take place. The ceremony, which had been scheduled for June 5, was abruptly called off in part because several players had said they wouldn't attend, according to a statement released by the White House.
"The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House," President Trump tweeted late Monday evening. "Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!"
Some NFL players have chosen to kneel during the national anthem the last two seasons to protest social injustice. And while the Eagles have been among the league's most outspoken teams on these issues, Philadelphia players neither knelt nor remained in the locker room for the anthem during the 2017 campaign.
In response, this image has been making its way around social media:
That's cornerback Ron Brooks, who appeared in six games during the 2016 season but was cut by the Eagles in August 2017 and has been out of the NFL since.
There was also a Fox News report showing Eagles players kneeling in prayer as part of the story on the anthem protest.
"This can't be serious," Eagles tight end Zach Ertz tweeted Tuesday morning. "Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this."
A short time later, Fox News apologized.
According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had planned to send a smaller contingent to the White House as a way to avoid putting his players in a difficult spot. Garafolo reported that contingent would have consisted of fewer than 10 players. ESPN's Adam Schefter added that "a large group of Eagles players had decided not to attend, including most -- if not all -- of the black players."
In the statement explaining why the Eagles' Super Bowl ceremony had been canceled, the White House explained that "...[T]he 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."
U.S. Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania said he would not attend the White House celebration and invited the Eagles to Congress instead.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney invited the Eagles to City Hall in a statement that praised the team and criticized the president, and the NFLPA released a statement condemning the White House's decision in part because it "has led to the cancellation of several player-led community service events for young people in the Washington, DC area."