Fox apologizes for implying Eagles players were kneeling in protest. They were praying.
As President Donald Trump continued to tweet about rescinding the Philadelphia Eagles' invitation to celebrate their Super Bowl victory at the White House, one member of the team called out Fox News for using photos of players kneeling in pregame prayer during a segment about the canceled visit, calling it "propaganda." The network later apologized for showing the "unrelated footage."
Tight end Zach Ertz and other Eagles players were shown kneeling in several photos during the Fox News segment, but Ertz said the players were kneeling in prayer, not to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality issues, as other players have done. Trump has used the pregame demonstrations as a rallying point, and Vice President Pence departed early from a Colts game last fall when members of the 49ers took a knee.
Ertz spotted the photos in the Fox report, tweeting Tuesday morning, 'This can't be serious. . . . Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad. I feel like you guys should have to be better than this." Ertz's tweet quickly was shared on social media, gathering over 58,000 likes, over 25,000 retweets and nearly 2,000 replies by 11 a.m.
This can’t be serious.... Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this... https://t.co/kYeyH2zXdK
— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) June 5, 2018
By midmorning, the network had apologized for the report on "Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream."
"During our report about President Trump canceling the Philadelphia Eagles' trip to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win, we showed unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer," Christopher Wallace, the program's executive producer, said in a statement sent to The Post. "To clarify, no members of the team knelt in protest during the national anthem through the regular or post-season last year. We apologize for the error."
"This can't be serious. . .. Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?! Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this. . ." Ertz tweeted.
Less than 24 hours before the Eagles were scheduled to visit the White House, Trump said in a statement that he would appear with only the team's fans and the United States Marine Band and Army Chorus, and that the anthem would be played "loudly and proudly." His decision came after some players said they would skip the ceremony in protest; a senior administration official told The Post that only 10 to 12 people might come representing the team, creating a meager celebration.
"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," Trump's statement said.
Receiver Torrey Smith, who now plays in Carolina, called Trump's cancellation a "cowardly" decision Monday night, and tweeted that the president's statement contained "so many lies."
"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," Trump's statement said. "The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better."
Instead, Trump announced "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."
"We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!," Trump tweeted.
Defensive lineman Chris Long, who donated his salary to charity last season and spoke out after violence erupted in his Charlottesville hometown last summer, sharply criticized Fox News for using the images of players in prayer.
"Imagine wanting to please the boss so very badly that you run stills of guys knelt down PRAYING during pregame," he tweeted. "Not one Eagles player knelt for the anthem this [year]. Keep carrying his water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men. Aren't many of your viewers. . .nevermind."
Smith, who had not planned to attend the White House celebration, tweeted that "not many [players] were planning to go" and added: "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."
"There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views," Smith added in a subsequent tweet. "The men and women that wanted to go should've been able to go."
The NFL Players Association expressed displeasure with Trump's decision, saying in a statement Tuesday: "Our union is disappointed in the decision by the White House to disinvite players from the Philadelphia Eagles from being recognized and celebrated by all Americans for their accomplishment. This decision by the White House has led to the cancellation of several player-led community service events for young people in the Washington, DC area. NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place."
Several Eagles players have been active in trying to raise awareness of social injustice, none took a knee during the anthem last season. Several, like Malcolm Jenkins, raised a fist during the anthem; Long has supported such teammates, standing beside them.
As for Fox's photos, Ertz told The Associated Press in January that Eagles players' faith "truly is a brotherhood. Those guys are holding me accountable. Off the field, I'm holding them accountable. We truly care about each other, we truly care about the growth that each individual has in the Word, as believers, as well as friends and family. There are a lot of guys who are truly trying to boost me up and keep me focused on the main thing, which is obviously the Word."
Defensive end Steven Means told the AP that the bond of faith is "stronger" among Eagles players. "It's another level because we push each other in certain areas that we are flawed at and open ourselves up to each other. We text each other throughout the day making sure that everybody is on the right path and doing the right thing."
Author information: Cindy Boren arrived at The Post in 2000 as an assignment editor in charge of baseball and NFL/Redskins coverage.