Washington, June 5 (IANS) US President Donald Trump cancelled a White House visit for the National Football League (NFL) champion Philadelphia Eagles, scheduled for Tuesday, due to a controversy over standing for the national anthem at the NFL games.
“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow (Tuesday). They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem, hand on heart, in honour of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.
“The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”
Trump has repeatedly criticised players for not standing for the anthem and has gone as far as to say team owners should fire players for doing so, CNN reported.
The tradition was initially started by Colin Kaepernick, who was formerly with the San Francisco 49ers. He drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff.
However, a new NFL policy gives players the option of remaining in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they do not wish to comply.
In response to Trump’s announcement, former Eagles receiver Torrey Smith called the move “a cowardly act”.
Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he will skip the event, and instead invited the team to take a tour of the US Capitol.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement, where he said Trump’s decision “proves that our President is not a true patriot”, according to CNN.
The President typically invites the champions of major professional and college sports to the White House for a visit as a part of their victory celebrations.
Last month, the NFL announced it would require athletes to stand during the National Anthem in response to players who took a knee as protest to what some players see as the systemic oppression of people of colour, including by police.