NEW YORK — Fox News is facing a torrent of criticism after the network ran photos of various players for the Philadelphia Eagles kneeling in prayer, creating the misleading impression they were demonstrating during the national anthem.
The photos ran during a segment on Monday night, after President Donald Trump announced he had disinvited the reigning Super Bowl champions from a traditional visit to the White House.
As Fox News anchor Shannon Bream explained Trump’s decision, which he attributed to the anthem protests that have roiled the league, photos of Eagles players kneeling in prayer were shown on screen.
One of the players pictured, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, forcefully denounced the network in a tweet on 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 said.
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
The network’s Twitter account also posted video of the segment, and as of Tuesday morning had not deleted or corrected those tweets.
In a statement, the network noted the images were disingenuous and apologized.
“During our report about President Trump canceling the Philadelphia Eagles visit to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win, we showed unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer,” according to a statement sent to Buzzfeed News from executive producer Christopher Wallace.
The statement noted no players kneeled in protest during the season and postseason.
“We apologize for the error,” the statement continued.
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) June 5, 2018
The network did air other segments showing players for other teams actually kneeling during the anthem. No one on the Eagles’ 2017-18 regular season roster kneeled during the anthem.
Other members of the pro-Trump media apparatus came in for criticism from members of the Eagles team that won Super Bowl LII over the New England Patriots in February.
Charlie Kirk, a right-wing activist and Fox News regular, had a back-and-forth with former Eagles receiver Torrey Smith, now with the Carolina Panthers, after Kirk tweeted, “If you refuse to stand for the national anthem you have no business being honored at the White House or by our President.”
After Smith pointed out that “no one on the Eagles took a knee last season,” Kirk tweeted a photo of cornerback Ron Brooks kneeling during a preseason game in August.
Brooks was later released by the team and did not play for the Eagles in the regular season.
The flap marks another chapter in Trump’s ongoing feud with the country’s most popular sports league over the anthem demonstrations that began in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
NFL owners approved a new policy governing the pregame ritual last month, requiring players to stand during the anthem if they are on the field. Trump offered tepid approval of the change, but insisted that all players should be on the sideline during the playing of the national anthem.