WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has held a "patriotism" event at the White House in lieu of a Super Bowl celebration for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles that he canceled.
The president said Tuesday on the South Lawn that it's time to "explain why young Americans stand for our national anthem."
Trump sang along to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" during a brief ceremony that included the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Army chorus.
Trump did not mention the Eagles. He accused players of abandoning their fans because many had said they wouldn't show up. Late Monday, he canceled the event because of the anticipated low turnout.
The president says that the nation needs to remember the "fallen heroes" and that the country stands together "for freedom, we stand together for patriotism."
Earlier, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says it was the Eagles, not the president, "who changed their commitment at the last minute" to a White House Super Bowl celebration.
The White House said that the team notified the White House last week that 81 people, including players, coaches and managers would be attending. But late Friday, the team tried to reschedule, proposing a time when Trump would be overseas.
In the end, Sanders says the Eagles offered to send "only a tiny handful of representatives" to the event, "while making clear that the great majority of players would not attend."
She says, "if this wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute."
In response, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins says NFL players who have been speaking out politically are fighting for racial and social equality, not disparaging the national anthem.
Jenkins issued a lengthy statement on Twitter.
Jenkins says the White House made a decision "to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military."
He says he will "continue to fight for impacted citizens and give a voice to those who never had one."