*After Donald Trump cancelled a visit to the White House by some of the Philadelphia Eagles, citing the dispute over whether NFL players protesting racial injustice must stand during the playing of the national anthem, two new reports on the size of the Eagles delegation might tell the real story.
According to Philly.com, a team source told them, “fewer than 10 players planned to attend” the event. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and Defensive End Chris Long were among the players the report cites as having planned on staying home, while team owner Jeffrey Lurie and quarterback Chris Wentz had planned to attend.
ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. reported that the even fewer Eagles players were planning to attend.
“Five or fewer Eagles players had intended to attend the White House Super Bowl ceremony, a league source tells me,” Van Natta wrote.
In a statement Monday, the White House claimed that some members of the Super Bowl championship team weren’t coming to the ceremony because they “disagree with their President” for insisting “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.”
Meanwhile, zero Eagles took a knee during the anthem in 2017.
“So many lies,” tweeted wide receiver Torrey Smith in response to Trump’s statement, adding: “Not many people were going to go.”
Smith, who said previously that he planned to skip the visit, continued: “No one refused to go simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem. … The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny also criticized Trump’s statement, saying he is “equally proud of the Eagles’ activism off the field” and that the players “represent the diversity of our nation – a nation in which we are free to express our opinions.”
“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 to which no one wants to attend,” Kenney said.
He went on: “There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go. It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.”
Kenney’s chief of staff Jane Slusser also chimed in on Twitter, saying “Our party was bigger than yours,” comparing Trump’s inauguration crowd size to the Eagles championship parade.
— Jane Slusser (@janeslusser) June 5, 2018
Trump’s statement said the Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation Tuesday, but “the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.” Instead, Trump said he would be hosting “a different type of ceremony,” featuring the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Army Chorus, that “will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.”
The Eagles issued a statement without directly addressing the White House cancellation.
“Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration,” the team statement read. “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.”