U.S. President Donald Trump has withdrawn an invitation for this year’s Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, to visit the White House.
Trump called off the June 5 visit late Monday.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to celebrate 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 honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”
All Eagles players stood for the anthem last season.
Trump said the team wanted to send a smaller delegation, but “the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
Instead, Trump said the fans were still welcome and that he would host “a different type of ceremony.” In a Twitter post on Tuesday, he said the anthem “will proudly be playing.”
Trump also noted “many” championship teams have visited the White House.
Trump has been at odds with NFL athletes who knelt during the playing of the national anthem before their games in a protest of police brutality and racial inequality. Trump has repeatedly denounced the players as unpatriotic and demanded an end to such protests.
In response to Trump’s announcement, the Eagles issued a statement saying, “It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship,” adding, “Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration.” The statement also said the team was grateful for the support it has received and is looking forward to continuing preparations for this year’s season.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney criticized the move by President Trump and said the Eagles “represent the diversity of our nation — a nation in which we are free to express our opinion.”
Kenney, a Democrat, said, “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.”
In a CNN interview Tuesday, Kenney said, “Athletes are American citizens who have the First Amendment right to express their views” and accused the president of trying to “control the thoughts of this country.”
Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who played for the Eagles last season, responded via Twitter to Trump’s decision.
“So many lies,” he wrote, adding, “Not many people were going to go.”
He also said, “No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem…The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military.”
Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania invited the Eagles to the U.S. Capitol and described the president’s decision as a “political stunt.”
This is not the first time Trump has clashed with professional athletes.
Last year, the National Basketball Association champions, the Golden State Warriors, did not visit the White House after the president took issue when team star Stephen Curry said he would not attend.