Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz criticized Fox News on Tuesday after the network used a picture of Eagles kneeling in prayer during a news segment, creating the misleading impression that they were protesting.
The segment was about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the Eagles’ trip to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win after the organization offered to send a “small delegation” instead of the full team.
That’s because many players had already said they wouldn’t attend because of Trump’s comments on football players who kneel during the national anthem.
The players have knelt to protest racial inequality and police brutality, following Colin Kaepernick who first protested this way in 2016.
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Trump has repeatedly called on them to stop, calling the protest disrespectful.
During coverage of recent events, Fox News used pictures of Eagles’ players who were kneeling in prayer – rather than protest – including tight end Zach Ertz.
“This can’t be serious … Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?” Ertz wrote on Twitter.
No Eagles player knelt or sat during the national anthem during the 2017 regular season, according to a report by Sports Pundit, which tracked protests among the 32 NFL teams.
The network removed the segment online and officials apologized for using the footage, Christopher Wallace, executive producer of “Fox News @ Night,” said in a statement.
“During our report about President Trump canceling the Philadelphia Eagles trop to the White Hours to celebrate their Super Bowl win, we showed unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer,” the statement read.
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Wallace acknowledged that Eagles players did not kneel during the regular or post-season this year.
“We apologize for the error,” Wallace continued.
The event continued on Tuesday afternoon without the Eagles’ present.
Donald Trump highlighted the flag and the anthem in a pointed speech that didn’t name any NFL players or franchises.
“We love our country. We respect our flag. And we always proudly stand for the National Anthem,” he said.
“We always will stand for the National Anthem.”
He also explained why “young Americans” stand for the anthem, saying it is to honour the military and the country.
“We stand to honor our military and to honor our country, and to remember the fallen heroes who never made it back home,” he continued.
“We stand to pay tribute to the incredible Americans who came before us and the heroic sacrifices they made.”
(Kaepernick, who started the protest, said he spoke with veteran Nate Boyer who convinced him to kneel rather than sit during the national anthem.)
In the wake of the cancellation, Philadelphia mayor called Trump a “fragile egomaniac” who Is afraid of “the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”
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.
*with files from Reuters