With a significant contingent of the team set to snub him, U.S. president Donald Trump has called off a visit by the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House Tuesday.
Trump says in a statement that some members of the Super Bowl championship team “disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart.”
Trump says the team wanted to send a smaller delegation, but fans who planned to attend “deserve better.”
Torrey Smith, a receiver with the Eagles last season, reacted to the news and explained the players’ position.
The NFL recently announced a new policy requiring players to stand for the anthem if they’re on the field before a game. Trump had suggested players who kneel be fired.
But CFL will not be following suit. The league and the Saskatchewan Roughriders issued statements of support after Rider players first linked arms during a game last September.
“We cherish our anthem because of the values it has come to represent. One of those values is freedom of expression. Regardless of whether we liked it or agreed with it, we would absolutely respect our players’ right to express their views in this way, which is peaceful and does not disrupt our game in any way,” the CFL statement read. “If the words ‘true north strong and free’ are to be truly celebrated, we must honour their meaning, not just their singing. We say this in a sincere and heartfelt attempt to be faithful to those who over the years have fought and sacrificed for our freedom by supporting, in the present day, the exercise of that freedom.”
The CFL does not plan on changing that approach this season a league spokesman confirmed.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – who is on the Montreal Alouettes neg list – began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.
– with files from AP