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President Trump cancels Philadelphia Eagles' visit to White House in latest battle over players' protests

Key Points
  • President Trump said the Philadelphia Eagles will be "unable" to visit the White House on Tuesday.
  • Trump said they "disagree with their President" on the protests that saw many NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem.
  • The NFL adopted a new policy in May requiring players to stand for the National Anthem on the field.
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Trump rescinds Eagles' White House invite

President Donald Trump rescinded the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles' invitation to the White House, saying Monday night that they are "unable" to attend on Tuesday because they "disagree with their President" on the protests that saw many NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem.

Rather than serve as a celebration for the Super Bowl victors, Trump said the event will instead be held to "honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the national anthem."

The Eagles, after much deliberation, had planned to send a smaller group of players to represent the team, according to reports from the NFL. But Trump said, "the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better."

The National Football League appeared to side with Trump on the Star-Spangled Banner last month, changing its policy to require players to "stand and show respect for the flag" during the anthem before games or wait in the locker room until the song ends.

Trump's kiss-off to the Eagles is the latest episode in a heated, at times racially charged debate over the wave of players kneeling in protest during the anthem, sparked in 2016 by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, who said he was protesting racial injustices by refusing "to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," immediately drew the ire of some fans and politicians alike, who considered the gesture unpatriotic.

While Trump's statement characterized the entire team as being united in opposition to him, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that only a handful of players have definitively said they planned to decline the invitation. Those players include defensive end Chris Long, safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith took to Twitter following Trump's decision to rescind the team's invitation, calling the move "cowardly" and accusing the president of spreading "the false narrative that players are anti-military."

Jenkins had spoken out against the NFL's stricter policy on the anthem, saying it served to "thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country," the NFL reported.

Head Coach Doug Pederson told reporters on May 22 that his team would attend the White House ceremony. The team reportedly debated a number of options for how to deal with the visit, mulling over whether to send a smaller number of players to the White House, or whether to allow the players to visit other areas of Washington if they chose.

The New England Patriots sent an abbreviated group of players to Trump's White House after winning the Super Bowl in 2017.

The NFL Players Association union, which has criticized the NFL's new anthem policy, did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Read the full statement from the president:

"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 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."

--CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.