In an unprecedented move on Monday, President Trump rescinded the Philadelphia Eagles' invitation to an upcoming White House event celebrating their Super Bowl championship. Many were aghast at Trump's move, considering the presidential tradition that goes along with championship team invites. Moreover, Twitter reactions to the Eagles' White House invite reversal also indicated that many on social media had another problem with Trump's decision — that he seemingly got his facts wrong.
The now-canceled event was originally scheduled to take place on the White House's South Lawn on Tuesday, June 5. In reflecting on the event's cancellation on Twitter, Trump indicated that his decision was largely driven by his views on the national anthem and his opposition to players kneeling or not being present on the field while it is played. As Trump wrote on Twitter:
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!
Many on Twitter decried Trump for his decision, deriding him for his stance on NFL player kneeling and also accusing him of perpetuating divisiveness. Moreover, people condemned the president for appearing to get his facts wrong. Trump's tweet seemed to imply that current Eagles players either stayed in the locker room or knelt during the national anthem. In reality, however, no Eagles player on the 2017 team knelt during the national anthem in the regular season. PennLive reporter Aaron Kasinitz, who covers the team, also reported on Twitter that no Eagles player stayed in the locker room during the anthem, either.
A former Eagles player also took to Twitter to condemn Trump's decision. Indeed, wide receiver Torrey Smith (who now plays for the Panthers) criticized the misleading nature of Trump's tweet, saying, "If someone took a knee during those 16 games I missed it." He also decried the president for criticizing players for their views and for placing the focus of the event on the national anthem. As Smith tweeted:
There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go. It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.
Many Eagles players had not been planning on attending the White House event anyway, due to their disagreement with Trump and/or his administration's policies, CBS Sports reported. As a result, the Eagles' owner, Jeffrey Lurie, had previously decided to send a small group of less than 10 people to the White House event. CBS noted that Trump's statement regarding the cancellation implied that he was not satisfied with the expected low turnout.
In his official White House statement, Trump noted that, while the players' event is canceled, he still plans on hosting "a different type of ceremony" for the over 1,000 Eagles fans who had previously been invited to the players' celebration. As the statement noted, the new ceremony "will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the national anthem." The statement revealed that the president will attend the event, arriving at 3 p.m. "with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America."
Overall, Trump's last-minute cancellation of the Eagles players' White House celebration has certainly received a lot of attention on social media — both because of the president's misleading comments and because of the controversial nature of his decision to cancel the event in the first place.