The mayor of Philadelphia and the NFL Players association fired back at U.S. President Donald Trump after he disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House.
Late Monday, Trump said he cancelled the visit after the team said it would send a small group of players and staff.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump said in a statement. “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honour of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”
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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Trump was not a “true patriot” following the cancellation of what normally is an annual tradition for Super Bowl champions.
“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,” the mayor said in a statement. “City hall is always open for a celebration.”
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Last month, the NFL announced it is requiring all players and team personnel to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” or the team will be fined by the league. The NFL announced the anthem policy following nearly two years of protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season, even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.
None of the Eagles took a knee during the anthem in 2017.
On Tuesday, the union representing NFL players said it was “disappointed” with Trump’s decision and said that smaller community events for young people were cancelled as a result of the cancellation of the Eagles’ visit to the White House.
“Our union is disappointed in the decision by the White House to disinvite players from the Philadelphia Eagles from being recognized and celebrated by all Americans for their accomplishment,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place.”
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Trump said Monday that Eagles fans were still welcome at the White House for “a different type of ceremony.”
“One that will honour our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the national anthem,” Trump said.
The president reiterated the sentiment Tuesday, while appearing to mock NFL players.
“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!” Trump tweeted. “NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!”
On Tuesday afternoon, the White House placed blame on the Eagles for changing the team’s commitment at the “eleventh hour.”
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“There were 80 members of the Eagles organization that RSVP’d and committed to attend this event as recently as Friday as well as over a thousand fans,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “The Eagles are the ones who tried to change their commitment at the eleventh hour.
“If this wasn’t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise then they wouldn’t have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute,” Sanders added.
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