After abruptly canceling a White House fete originally intended to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl victory—a decision President Donald Trump pinned on a disagreement between him and the players over protests during the national anthem—the White House on Tuesday staged an impromptu event to “celebrate” America instead. The last-minute ceremony featured brief remarks by the president and a military sing-a-long to “God Bless America.”
But by the end of the event, Trump had already attracted ridicule over his apparent unfamiliarity with the song’s lyrics. The awkward display quickly drew accusations of hypocrisy, with many pointing to the irony of Trump’s struggle amid his ongoing attacks against athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. (Trump was notoriously heckled for the same when he appeared to forget the words to the national anthem in January.)
At his Celebration of America event, Trump doesn't appear to know the words to "God Bless America." pic.twitter.com/fzwe1gFejM
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 5, 2018
After the Eagles informed the White House that most of its players would not be attending the event, Trump announced Monday evening that he was calling off the traditionally apolitical ceremony. But in a tweet, Trump also blamed protests for the cancelation, when in fact none of the Eagles took a knee during the last season.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
Nevertheless, after withdrawing the invitation, the White House implied that the team was disappointing fans who had planned on attending. “The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better,” a statement read.
Reporters on the scene for “Celebration of America” have added skepticism to the White House’s claims. When asked about basic Eagles knowledge, many seemed unfamiliar. One man, however, kneeled during the event.
A man takes a knee during Trump’s celebration. pic.twitter.com/zghJSk2YOu
— Carina Bergfeldt (@carinabergfeldt) June 5, 2018