Philadelphia mayor: Trump ‘playing the NFL like a fiddle’

Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is getting the upper hand on the National Football League in a manufactured fight with his hometown Eagles.

“I think that this is all a stunt,” Kenney said. “And I think that the President is playing the NFL like a fiddle and these players are caught in the middle.”

Kenney, speaking on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” said none of the Eagles knelt during the regular season or postseason during the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice, nor did they sit out the anthem in their locker room.

“He’s making it up as he goes along in an effort to divide this country more than he has already,” Kenney said of Trump.

Kenney said he stands at attention with his hand over his heart during the anthem, but that he does so as “a white man with privilege,” and that others without the same privilege reacted differently. He continued to say that Trump’s constant refrain against the kneeling protest was a rejection of First Amendment principles.

“The President wants to ignore the First Amendment and other amendments in the Constitution, and force people to view things and act and speak the way he tells them to,” Kenney said. “And that’s not what this country is about.”

Trump on Monday canceled the Super Bowl champion Eagles’ planned visit to the White House, citing the small size of the team’s planned delegation and railing against the kneeling protest. On Tuesday, Trump taunted NFL players over the protest and lashed out at the NFL owners’ new requirement that players stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room during the song.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, during her briefing on Tuesday, accused the Eagles of a “stunt” and claimed the team had decided to send a smaller delegation “at the eleventh hour.”

In his interview with CNN, Kenney dismissed Sanders’ comments.

“She lies from that podium every day, so I have really no reason to believe she’s telling the truth on that one,” Kenney said.