White House blames Eagles for canceled visit

The White House on Tuesday blamed the Philadelphia Eagles organization for the cancellation of an event honoring the team at the White House, pointing to the expected low turnout from players.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the team submitted a list on May 31 that included 81 individuals who would attend Tuesday’s event. The list included players, coaches, management and other staff. 

The team notified the White House last Friday that many players would not attend and attempted to reschedule, Sanders said. They suggested alternative dates when President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE would be out of town, she said. 

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“Unfortunately, the Eagles offered to send only a tiny handful of representatives, while making clear that the great majority of players would not attend the event, despite planning to be in D.C. today,” Sanders said. 

“In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans,” she added.

The Hill has reached out to the Eagles for comment.

Trump abruptly disinvited the team on Monday night amid reports that the Super Bowl champions planned to only send roughly 10 players to the White House.

However, he cited the team's views toward national anthem protests in his explanation, sparking renewed furor over the practice.

No member of the Eagles took a knee during the national anthem last season, but a few held their fists aloft each week during the "The Star-Spangled Banner." Some of those players, including Malcom Jenkins, Chris Long and Torrey Smith, said after the Super Bowl that they would not visit the White House if invited.

Smith disputed that players opted not to attend because of Trump's views on the anthem.

The president has frequently criticized NFL players who protested racial injustice and police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem before games last season, calling for them to be fired or otherwise punished.

In an effort to appease Trump and his supporters, league owners voted last month to implement a new policy that requires players to stand during the anthem next season or else face a fine. Players also have the option to remain in the locker room.

Even with the new policy, Trump has continued to seize on the anthem controversy. He has suggested players who protest don't belong in the country and condemned the option of staying in the locker room. 

The NFL Players Association said the Eagles had planned to do community service work while in Washington, but canceled those events as well. Instead, players attended team workouts.

In place of the team visit, Trump will host a "Celebration of America" event at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.