Updated: 11 p.m.
The Eagles aren’t going to the White House after all. They’ve been disinvited.
Less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl champions were set to visit the White House for a glorified photo opportunity, President Donald Trump has rescinded their invitation with the following statement: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.”
A few hours later, the Eagles responded with a statement (more on it here):
"It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season."
Late Monday night, the president reiterated his stance in a tweet:
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
In the planning leading up to the trip, several notable Eagles, including Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Brandon Graham, said they were not going to attend the White House visit. The team was planning on letting its individual players decide whether or not they wanted to attend the visit to the White House, which was supposed to be just a part of its trip to Washington D.C. The Eagles were presumably planning other parts to their trip.
At least some of the team was looking forward to visiting the White House.
“I’m excited to be going to be honored as world champions. It’s a great honor,” head coach Doug Pederson said on May 17. “We’re still working through some logistics right now, so we don’t have all the details today, but excited to be going.”
Jenkins, even though he didn’t want to go to the White House, said he didn’t want to ruin the experience for others. Among them was seemingly quarterback Carson Wentz, who said he would attend if his other teammates wanted to go.
“I think it’s just a cool way to receive the honor nationally and be recognized,” Wentz said on May 22. “I don’t personally view it — I know some people do and everyone has their opinion on it — but I don’t view it as a political thing whatsoever. I don’t mess with politics very often.”
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie is considered one of the more liberal owners in the NFL. He gave money to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and reportedly called Trump’s presidency “disastrous” in a closed-door meeting. When asked about the possibility of a White House visit back at the owners meetings in March, Lurie didn’t want to talk about it.
The first time the Eagles acknowledged the visit to the White House was in April, when they said they were working through the logistics of a trip to Washington, where they were hoping for an “opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with the leaders of our country."
Swirling at the forefront of this rescinded invitation is the president’s strong stance against demonstrations during the national anthem. In fact, that’s precisely the reason for the rescinded invitation. All Eagles players stood during the national anthem last season. Jenkins has been one of the most outspoken anthem demonstrators — he raised his fist — but stopped his demonstration last year when the NFL and his players coalition helped create an agreement that pledged $90 million toward social justice issues.
But earlier this offseason, the NFL passed a new rule that aimed to eliminate protests during the anthem entirely and backlash has followed.