Trump Hosts Celebration, Without Philadelphia Eagles

President Trump singing the national anthem on Tuesday. “We love our country, we respect our flag and we always proudly stand for the national anthem,” Mr. Trump said.

WASHINGTON — President Trump doubled down on his war with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, hosting a short celebration without the team as his spokeswoman accused the Super Bowl champions of turning their White House invitation into “a political stunt.”

Mr. Trump, his hand over his heart, sang along as the United States Marine Band and the Army Chorus performed the national anthem on the South Lawn. In brief remarks, Mr. Trump did not mention the Eagles as he urged Americans to always stand for the anthem.

“We love our country, we respect our flag and we always proudly stand for the national anthem,” Mr. Trump said. “We stand to honor our military and to honor our country and to remember the fallen heroes who never made it back home.”

The message from the president was clear: a denunciation of football players who knelt during the anthem or have said they would stay in the locker room when it is played — even though none of the Eagles players did either of those things during their winning season.

In tweets earlier, Mr. Trump also made his meaning crystal clear, saying, “NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!”

And moments before the 10-minute celebration, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, unloaded on the Eagles, flatly accusing them of engaging in what she repeatedly called “a political stunt” by declining to attend the White House celebration at the last minute.

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Trump Stumbles Through ‘God Bless America’

The president closed his “Celebration of America” event with a rendition of the patriotic tune, but didn’t quite get all the words.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please join us in honoring our country by singing ‘God Bless America.’ ” [music] “God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.”

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The president closed his “Celebration of America” event with a rendition of the patriotic tune, but didn’t quite get all the words.CreditCredit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The Eagles are the ones that changed their commitment at the last minute,” Ms. Sanders said.

Tuesday’s event was originally scheduled for the winner of the Super Bowl this year to be honored by the president, surrounded by fans. But Mr. Trump pulled the plug on the celebration on Monday night after receiving word that all but a few players were boycotting.

In a statement, Mr. Trump abruptly disinvited the Eagles, accusing them of trying to make a political statement about the anthem.

Officials for the team have declined to comment. Several players have taken issue with Mr. Trump’s assertion, saying the protests were about social justice and police brutality against black people, not any issue with the national anthem.

But Mr. Trump and his aides continued to insist that the anthem was at the root of the controversy — a stand that Ms. Sanders said resonated with the president’s supporters.

It was a continuation of a cultural controversy that Mr. Trump inflamed with repeated attacks on N.F.L. players for kneeling during the anthem. N.F.L. owners barred players last month from kneeling, but allowed them to remain in the locker room.

Mr. Trump said in his tweets on Tuesday that other professional sports teams had been eager to visit.

“We have had many Championship teams recently at the White House including the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Penguins, New England Patriots, Alabama and Clemson National Champions, and many others,” the president said. “National Anthem & more great music today at 3:00 P.M.”

Ms. Sanders said in a statement that discussions with representatives of the Eagles about a visit with the president had begun in February, shortly after the team beat the New England Patriots.

Ms. Sanders said that on May 31, the Secret Service received the names of 81 people connected to the Eagles who would need clearance for the June 5 visit. She said the Secret Service cleared those individuals to attend.

But she added that the team contacted the White House on Friday to say that very few people from the team would be attending, and requested to reschedule the celebration. That was not possible because the president is leaving on Friday for overseas trips to Canada and Singapore, Ms. Sanders wrote.

“The White House, despite sensing a lack of good faith, nonetheless attempted to work with the Eagles over the weekend to change the event format that could accommodate a smaller group of players,” she said. “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.”

She added, “In other words, the vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans.”

White House officials said 1,000 people had been invited to attend the South Lawn celebration of the Eagles victory, many of them die-hard fans of the team, which won the Super Bowl for the first time this year.

After the president disinvited the team, officials said the fans were told they could still come to the “celebration of America” instead. There was a large crowd of people on the South Lawn on Tuesday, though it was unclear how many people attended or whether they were the same people who had been invited originally.

For Mr. Trump, who has long been obsessed with the crowds at his events, there was no doubt.

“Actually,” he told the crowd before singing along with a rendition of “God Bless America” by the Army Chorus, “to be honest, it’s even bigger than we had anticipated.”

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