On Monday, President Donald Trump called off the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ visit to the White House, saying in a statement that players and team officials “disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2018
The announcement came a day before the Eagles’ scheduled visit and followed months of uncertainty about whether players would go to Washington at all. Several high-profile players, including safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long, had said they wouldn’t visit Trump’s White House, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that a large group of players, including a large majority of the team’s black players, also planned to skip the ceremony.
Former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was recently traded to the Carolina Panthers and who had indicated he would not join his former teammates in Washington, called the president’s action on Monday night “cowardly.”
The Eagles are the second team to have their White House visit canceled by Trump. Last September, a day after the president said that NFL owners should fire players who protested during the national anthem, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry told reporters he didn’t want to go to Washington. Trump tweeted that the invitation was “withdrawn,” leading to backlash from athletes, including LeBron James, who notably called the president a “bum.”
Meanwhile, in late May, NFL owners caved to the president’s pressure and enacted a new policy that allowed the league to fine teams if players or staffers refused to “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” And the Wall Street Journal recently reported that, in a sworn deposition for a collusion case filed by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Trump told him the league’s handling of the national anthem was a “very winning, strong issue” for him: “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”