President Trump doesn't think people should take a knee during the National Anthem at football games — so he's surely not happy when it happens in his front yard. That's exactly what happened on Monday, however, when an unidentified man kneeled at the White House's "Celebration of America" event when the National Anthem was being sung. Trump held the event after abruptly disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles to what would have been a ceremony celebrating their Super Bowl win, and the man in question reportedly left before reporters could interview him.
Although it's customary for the Super Bowl victors to attend a celebratory ceremony at the White House after their win, several Eagles players indicated that they wouldn't attend in 2018 out of opposition to the Trump presidency. Some members of the team still planned on going, but Trump uninvited the entire team on Monday, the day before they were scheduled to arrive.
In a statement, Trump wrongly claimed that the Eagles "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." In reality, not a single member of the Eagles refused to stand for the National Anthem during the 2017 season, and those who said they wouldn't attend the ceremony made it clear that they were doing so out of opposition to Trump and his policies.
After accusing the Eagles of pulling "a political stunt," the White House held a replacement event on Monday — the "Celebration of America" featured. Trump announced on Twitter that it would feature "the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country" courtesy of the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus.
"NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!," the president added; this was a reference to a recent decision by the NFL that allows players to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, which wasn't previously allowed. Trump was right: There were no NFL players "escaping" to locker rooms during the event, because no NFL players went to the event in the first place.
One unnamed man who did attend the 10-minute event, however, took a knee during the national anthem. Swedish reporter Carina Bergfeldt took video of him doing so, although according to Danish journalist Jesper Zølck, he "didn't wanna talk" to reporters and left shortly thereafter.
In his statement condemning the Eagles, Trump claimed that "1,000 fans" of the team had been planning to attend the event that he ultimately cancelled, but that they were invited to come to the "Celebration of America" event instead. But although a crowd did show up for that event, many people questioned how many of the attendees were in fact Eagles fans.
NBC 10 reporter Tim Furlong reported that not a single person he spoke with at the event could identify the Eagles' quarterback, and that he only spotted one piece of clothing with the Eagles logo on it. As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, many of the attendees were wearing business suits instead. ABC News reported that the White House sent out an email in the morning inviting all staffers to attend the event, and that many of the "Eagles fans" in question had White House badges tucked into their jackets and shirts.
Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who'd said he wasn't going to attend the original event, denounced Trump's decision to cancel it as "cowardly."
"There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views," Smith wrote in a tweet. "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."