“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 in a statement.
Trump has never demonstrated that he understands the argument of those protesting racism and as a result, continues to incorrectly characterize the position of the NFL players. In doing so, the president ultimately ends up reminding voters of his own ignorance about the history of black people in America, which I previously wrote about here.
But perhaps these are irrelevant when tribalism is what matters most. In the debate over whether it is appropriate for NFL players to take a knee to protest racism during the National Anthem, Trump has emerged as the ultimate culture warrior. In addition to calling the athletes "sons of bitches" last fall, he suggested recently that maybe they should leave America.
What Tuesday's White House statement didn't mention is the fact that the Eagles are one of the few teams that had no players take a knee or stay in the locker room during the anthem.
There was a notable protest from Malcolm Jenkins, a star strong safety for the Eagles, who started raising his fist during the national anthem during the 2016 season but said he'd discontinue his protest after the NFL pledged to contribute around $100 million to charities and causes that are important to African American communities.
Jenkins and Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke out again recently when the NFL owners announced their new rules about stadium protests.
"I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting," Jenkins said on Instagram.
Perhaps it was this spirit, in addition to Jenkins's and others' planned absence, that riled Trump most -- and led him to make a decision that seemed aimed at preventing embarrassment.
But it ultimately just makes him look authoritarian and thin-skinned to his critics.
“Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party which no one wants to attend," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.
While Trump might think he saved himself the embarrassment of having a small turnout from the Eagles, he now has to face the ramifications of being perceived as the type of president who more or less requires full compliance to his views on race, patriotism and activism.
According to a Washington Post poll, most Americans say it is never appropriate to kneel during the anthem. But a majority of Americans think players should be allowed to kneel and oppose firing them for protesting. A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that nearly 8 in 10 -- 79 percent -- of Americans believed that the right to conduct nonviolent protests was essential for an effective democracy, and the vast majority -- 74 percent -- support protecting the rights of those with unpopular views.
Several outlets are reporting that the cancellation came after the Eagles asked to reschedule the event.
Trump's response doesn't seem commensurate with a scheduling conflict. And regardless of the reason behind it, Trump used the opportunity to again inflame the cultural debate that's a hit with his base and cements divisions in the country on race.