On Monday, President Donald Trump canceled the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles’ upcoming visit to the White House. It was to be tomorrow. Not anymore.
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 4, 2018
The president’s statement complained that the full team didn’t want to go.
“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 White House statement said. “The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.” Another event is being scheduled for fans at 3:00 p.m. to “honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.”
Players including defensive ends Brandon Graham and Chris Long, and safety Malcolm Jenkins. Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was traded to the Carolina Panthers last March, refused to go to the White House meeting.
When the issue of kneeling during the anthem came up, Smith has said it wasn’t about disrespecting veterans, and pointed out that his father served in the U.S. Army.
“They call it the anthem protest,” Smith said, according to NJ. “We’re not protesting the anthem. It’s a protest during the anthem. I understand why people are mad, or may be offended when someone takes a knee.”
Smith fired out a few tweets after the cancellation was announced. Here’s how he addressed the White House statement.
So many lies smh
Here are some facts
1. Not many people were going to go
2. No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem
3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military pic.twitter.com/89GUNhJ4eE
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
Proponents of kneeling during the anthem often say they are protesting police brutality against people of color.
The cancellation has clear legal resonance with the NFL. Former San Francisco 49th quarterback Colin Kaepernick is suing the league after he wasn’t picked up as a free agent, and claimed he was being frozen out because he kneeled during the anthem. Indeed, the president has used the bully pulpit to condemn kneeling as being unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans.
In a deposition obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross testified that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reported to have had a phone conversation with Trump.
“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump reportedly said. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”
Ross said “I thought he changed the dialogue,” adding that he believed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been affected by the statement.
The NFL recently announced that it will require on-field players and staff to stand for the anthem.
Note: Updated with information from Smith’s Twitter account.
[Image via SAUL LOEB and AFP and Getty Images]