Facing a growing boycott by Philadelphia Eagles players refusing to visit the White House Tuesday, President Trump decided to disinvite the Super Bowl champions and throw a celebration of the National Anthem instead, administration officials tell ABC News.
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Over the course of the last several days, many Eagles players have been backing out of attending the traditional presidential Super Bowl celebration because of Trump's controversial comments about the NFL and players who have staged protests during the anthem.
The president chose to change the nature of the event in light of the boycott, one official said.
"He found having a smaller group come to the White House to be unsatisfactory," the official told ABC.
In an unusual move, Trump himself issued a statement Monday evening.
"The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. 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," the statement said.
"The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better. 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. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America."
Trump tweeted about his decision later in the evening as well.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
Eagles fans who RSVPd can still come to Tuesday's event but no one from the Philadelphia team or management will be attending, the source confirmed.
Asked if any players were still invited to come to the White House, the official replied: "If they all decide to stand [for the anthem], we would be open to having that conversation."
Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was part of the Eagles winning team but has since been traded to Carolina Panthers, tweeted back at the president over his statement.
"So many lies smh Here are some facts 1. Not many people were going to go 2. No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem 3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military
So many lies smh— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) June 4, 2018
Here are some facts
1. Not many people were going to go
2. No one refused to go simply because Trump “insists” folks stand for the anthem
3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military pic.twitter.com/89GUNhJ4eE
"It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration," the team said in a statement Monday. "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."
ABC News' Cindy Smith contributed to this report.