President Trump cancels Eagles' White House visit

- A day after scrubbing a White House visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, President Donald Trump appeared to challenge part of a new NFL policy that allows players who want to protest during the national anthem to do so in the locker room. 

The policy requires players to stand for the anthem if they are on the field. Trump had praised the policy after the NFL announced it.

Digging deeper into a culture war that he's repeatedly stoked, Trump tweeted Tuesday: "Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!"

Instead of hailing Eagles players for their work on the field and in the community, the White House is staging a "Celebration of America" featuring music provided by U.S. military bands and choruses. 

"We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!" Trump tweeted. 

In a separate tweet, he named the championship teams that have come to the White House during his presidency, including the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Penguins, New England Patriots and college sports teams.

The announcement was the latest signal that tensions remain high around the NFL protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines while the anthem played. Kaepernick's protest was an effort to raise awareness around systemic racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police.

Trump said in a statement Monday that some Eagles players "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."

He said the team wanted to send a smaller delegation Tuesday, but "the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better."

None of the Eagles took a knee during the anthem in 2017.

The Philadelphia Eagles tweeted the following after the announcement Monday night:

Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who said previously that he planned to skip the visit, responded with a series of tweets.

"So many lies," he wrote, adding, "Not many people were going to go."

Smith, who played on the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia team before being traded to the Carolina Panthers in March, added: "No one refused to go simply because Trump `insists' folks stand for the anthem. ... The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military."

He went on: "There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should've been able to go. It's a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don't want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish."

Mayor Kenney released the following statement on the recent decision of President Trump to disinvite the Philadelphia Eagles from visiting the White House:

“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."

It remains unclear exactly what prompted the change of plans. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about what had sparked the decision and why the circumstances were different from other events honoring winning teams, which some players have boycotted. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The announcement was the latest signal that tensions remain high around the NFL protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines while the anthem played. Kaepernick's protest was an effort to raise awareness around systemic racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police. 

He was soon joined by teammate Eric Reid. Both Reid and Kaepernick have filed grievances against the NFL and remain unsigned since their contracts with the 49ers expired.

MORE: Eagles Jenkins, Long, Smith plan on skipping potential White House visit

Last season, Vice President Mike Pence left the 49ers game against the Indianapolis Colts after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the anthem. Pence, who left before kickoff, tweeted soon afterward, "I left today's Colts game becaue (at)POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."

Trump has repeatedly decried the players' protest, referring to them as "sons of bitches" who should be fired at a rally for supporters in Alabama last year. Last month, the NFL announced a new policy -- praised on Twitter by both Trump and Pence -- requiring players to stand for the anthem if they're on the field before a game.

After the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2017, several players declined to attend the White House ceremony honoring their team last August, citing their differences with the president. In February, the Golden State Warriors declined to attend the White House ceremony honoring their 2017 NBA Championship, instead using their trip to Washington to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

During an interview after the new NFL policy was announced, Trump praised the league for doing "the right thing."

"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," Trump said. Or "you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country."

Several members of the Eagles have voiced staunch opposition.

"This is a fear of the diminished bottom line," defensive end Chris Long said last month. "It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it."

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has vowed to carry on the cause.

"I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting," he said recently. "This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people."

In response to the canceled White House event, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., invited the Eagles to come to Capitol Hill. 

"I'm proud of what the (at)Eagles accomplished this year. I'm skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. (at)Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?" he wrote.

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