Trump pulls invitation to NFL champion Eagles over anthem

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles would not visit the White House on Tuesday as planned after the NFL team disagreed with Trump’s call for players to stand for the national anthem.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump is seen at Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

Trump said in a statement that the Eagles, who defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February, wanted to send a smaller delegation but that he declined.

“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,” Trump said.

Last season, some National Football League players took a knee during the anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed black men, sparking a controversy. Trump denounced the players as unpatriotic and repeatedly demanded an end to such protests.

Under a policy unveiled last month by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and welcomed by Trump, teams will be fined if players on the field fail to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Players who choose not to stand may remain in the locker room until the anthem is finished.

In his statement, Trump said the Eagles wanted to a send a smaller delegation, “but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”

He said: “These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony – one that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.”

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney

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