PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — The White House claims the Philadelphia Eagles pulled a “political stunt” and abandoned their fans when they tried to reschedule their visit to meet President Donald Trump to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl victory.
According to the White House, the Eagles notified them on May 31 that 81 people, including players, coaches, management and personnel would attend the White House event.
“On Friday, the Secret Service cleared them for participation. These individuals, along with more than 1,000 Eagles fans, were scheduled to attend the event,” according to the White House.
However, last Friday, the White House says the Eagles reached out to reschedule the event after citing that many players would not be in attendance. The White House says Trump would be overseas on the dates the Eagles proposed.
They say they worked with the organization over the weekend to change the event format.
“Unfortunately, the Eagles offered to send only a tiny handful of representatives, while making clear that the great majority of players would not attend the event, despite planning to be in D.C. today. In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans,” the White House said in a statement.
During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says that the Eagles pulled a “political stunt” by trying to change their commitment at the 11th hour.
“If this wasn’t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn’t have planned to attend the event and backed out at the last minute. And if it wasn’t a political stunt, they wouldn’t have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew the president was going to be overseas,” said Sanders. “And if this wasn’t a political stunt, they wouldn’t have waited until Monday, well after 1,000 of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.”
Sources tell CBS3 that only a handful of players were planning on attending.
On Monday, Trump canceled the team’s White House visit, citing the controversy over the National Anthem.
“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 Eagles released a statement on Monday night without mentioning the canceled White House visit.
“It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season,” the team said.
Eagles safety and locker room leader Malcolm Jenkins said in a statement that players speak out because “we love this country and our communities.”
“Everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, deserves to be treated equally. We are fighting for racial and social equality,” he said.
Jenkins added that the White House wanted to paint them as “anti-America.”
“Instead the decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military. We will continue to fight for impacted citizens and give a voice to those who never had one,” said Jenkins.
The White House is now holding a “Celebration of America” event with 1,000 Eagles fans and performances by United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus on Tuesday afternoon.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)