President Donald Trump kicked off an "America Celebration" rally on the South Lawn Tuesday instead of hosting the Philadelphia Eagles as originally planned.
"We stand together for freedom, we stand for patriotism and we proudly stand for our glory nation under God," Trump said.
The national anthem dispute sparked friction among the Super Bowl champs, and after word spread that less than 10 players planned to show up, Trump called it off.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a White House statement saying that "the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans."
"If this wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event and backed out at the last minute," Sanders charged. "If it wasn't a political stunt then they wouldn't have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew the president would be over seas."
The rest of the Eagles backed out of the event because of the president's comments about those who did not stand during the national anthem but instead chose to kneel protesting police brutality.
The president announced the cancellation via Twitter saying: "Staying in the locker room for the playing of our national anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!"
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
He also released this official statement:
The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. 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. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better. These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony—one that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.
According to Sports Illustrated, after the Eagles won the Super Bowl title, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is now with the Carolina Panthers, and defensive end Chris Long immediately stated they had no plans of attending the celebration scheduled at the White House.
Last month, quarterback Carson Wentz said he planned on attending the event, scheduled for June 5, but only if most of his teammates were going. He added that he did not see it as a political matter.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and coach Doug Pederson both planned on attending the event and, "A lot of people in the Eagles organization are very disappointed," ESPN reported.
The NFL has recently announced a new policy that requires players to either stand for the national anthem if they are out on the field or remain in their locker rooms.
Jenkins and Long are both outspoken opponents to the league's new policy.
"I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting," Jenkins said recently. "This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people."
"This is a fear of the diminished bottom line," Long said. "It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it."
The president has called for players who kneel during the anthem to be fired.
"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," Trump said after the policy was announced, or "you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country.