Escalating his fight with players in the National Football League over whether they should stand for the National Anthem, President Donald Trump late Monday called off a planned visit to the White House on Tuesday by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, vowing instead to hold a “different type of ceremony” where he will “loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.”
“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,” Mr. Trump said in a written statement issued by the White House.
“I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America,” the President said.
While the President has focused on players who kneeled during the anthem, no Eagles did that last year – but a number had made it clear they were not going to show up at the White House, to show their displeasure with the President’s very public stance on the national anthem.
Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith went on Twitter, and pushed back against conservative critics.
Like the New England Patriots a year earlier, a number of Eagles were reportedly going to skip the visit to the White House, like defensive end Chris Long, who had also not gone to see Trump a year earlier.
Long and others have harshly criticized the new NFL policy that requires players to stand for the National Anthem, or have the team face a fine.
On Twitter, Long had made clear last month that the change was unacceptable, arguing it was time to “keep the politics out of football.”
For the President, the NFL’s policy on how players deal with the National Anthem has been something he’s pressed on repeatedly, an issue seemingly popular with his base.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there,” the President said in May.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,” he added.
One Democrat in Congress from Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey, said he would boycott Trump’s backup event, and find his own way to honor the Eagles on Capitol Hill.
“I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress,” Casey said. “How about a tour of the Capitol?”
“Well, I just became a Philadelphia Eagles fan,” tweeted Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), a frequent critic of the President.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) said as few as ten Eagles players were going to come to the White House.