Fox News admits ‘error’ after Zach Ertz and Chris Long blast misleading photos of praying Eagles players

"Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?"

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Zach Ertz #86 of the Philadelphia Eagles kneels on the field in the third quarter of Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots  at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Zach Ertz kneels on the field in prayer in the third quarter of Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots in Minneapolis, Minnesota. –Elsa / Getty Images

Zach Ertz and Chris Long are calling out Fox News for misleadingly using photos suggesting that Philadelphia Eagles players were kneeling during the national anthem last season, when they were actually kneeling in prayer “well before” the anthem.

“This can’t be serious….” Ertz tweeted Tuesday morning. “Praying before games with my teammates, well before the anthem, is being used for your propaganda?”

The players’ criticism came in reaction to a series of still photos Fox News aired during a segment Monday night on the news that President Donald Trump had disinvited the Super Bowl LII champions, after the Eagles reportedly notified the White House that as few as 10 to 12 members might attend the planned South Lawn ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

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In a statement Monday, Trump cited the dispute over players protesting racial injustice during the national anthem, even though no Eagles players actually kneeled during the anthem this past season (cornerback Ron Brooks, who was cut before the regular season, did kneel during the anthem in the preseason).

In their report Monday, Fox News anchor Shannon Bream explained that the Eagles wouldn’t be attending the White House ceremony “due to the national anthem controversy,” as B-roll images of Ertz and other members of the team kneeling on the field were displayed on screen.

But as Ertz pointed out, the photos being shown were actually of players kneeling in prayer, which he and others routinely do before, during, and after each game.

“Just sad, I feel like you guys should have to be better than this…” the Eagles tight end said of the Fox News clip.

In a statement to Boston.com following the outcry Tuesday, Christopher Wallace, the executive producer of “FOX News @ Night with Shannon Bream,” acknowledged that the show aired “unrelated footage of players kneeling in prayer.”

“To clarify, no members of the team knelt in protest during the national anthem throughout regular or post-season last year,” Wallace said. “We apologize for the error.”

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The network also deleted the footage from Twitter.

Another one of the photos Fox News ran in the segment showed Long, the Eagles defensive lineman, standing with his hand on the back of cornerback Malcolm Jenkins in support, as Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod raised their fists during the anthem before a game last October.

Echoing Ertz, Long blasted the notoriously Trump-friendly cable network for “carrying his water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men.”

Chris Long (56), Malcolm Jenkins (27), and Rodney McLeod (23) gesture during the national anthem before an October game against the Arizona Cardinals in Philadelphia. —Matt Rourke / AP

“Imagine wanting to please the boss so very badly that you run stills of guys knelt down PRAYING during pregame. Not one Eagles player knelt for the anthem this yr,” the former New England Patriots player tweeted.

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Long — who has consistently supported the rights of fellow players to protest during the anthem — added that Fox News was “complicit in PLAYING America” and said that most Eagles players had decided not to attend the ceremonial White House event “long” before the NFL announced its new rule against kneeling during the anthem last month.

“It wasn’t discussed once in our meetings about the visit,” he said Tuesday.

Long also skipped the White House visit last year after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots. According to PennLive.com, he stood with Jenkins and McLeod as they raised their fists during the anthem before every game during the first three months of the 2017 season. However, the three players stopped demonstrating after the NFL met with players and pledged $89 million to social justice causes.

In lieu of the canceled Super Bowl ceremony, Trump tweeted Tuesday that the White House will stage an event “playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country.”

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