WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump held a “patriotism” event at the White House in lieu of a Super Bowl celebration for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles that he canceled.
The president said Tuesday on the South Lawn that it’s time to “explain why young Americans stand for our national anthem.”
Trump sang along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” during a brief ceremony that included the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Army chorus.
Trump did not mention the Eagles. He accused players of abandoning their fans because many had said they wouldn’t show up. Late Monday, he canceled the event because of the anticipated low turnout.
The president says that the nation needs to remember the “fallen heroes” and that the country stands together “for freedom, we stand together for patriotism.”
We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
“Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!” Trump tweeted Tuesday — even though none of the Super Bowl champion Eagles had taken a knee during the anthem in 2017.
The National Football League Players Association, the union representing NFL players, said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the decision to disinvite the players and said the reversal had led to the cancellation of several community service events for young people in the Washington area.
“NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place,” it said in a statement.
Trump had been leery of the Eagles’ planned visit to the White House because the team’s owner, Jeffrey Lurie, has been a Trump critic and several of players have been outspoken against the anthem policy, according to an outside confidant and a White House official not authorized to discuss internal conversations publicly. Trump’s tweets on Tuesday appeared to challenge a new NFL policy that requires players protesting racial injustice to stand if they’re on the field during the national anthem or stay in the locker room.
Trump was furious when he learned how few Eagles planned to attend Tuesday’s event, and ordered aides to scrap the visit, believing a low turnout would reflect poorly on him. He had told aides last year that he was embarrassed when Tom Brady, the star quarterback of that season’s champion New England Patriots, opted to skip a White House visit.
This story was written by the Associated Press. The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.