The Pittsburgh Penguins recently announced their decision to accept the invitation to visit the White House with the Stanley Cup. The team issued a statement defending their decision:
“The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. We attended White House ceremonies after previous championships – touring the historic building and visiting briefly with Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama – and have accepted an invitation to attend again this year.
Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.”
The Penguins were given an opportunity to make a stand against Donald Trump’s statements and policies by declining the invitation, but instead took the path of least resistance. The team choose a particularly problematic time to accept the invitation in light of Trump’s recent statements about players in the NFL and NBA.
Trump recently issued statements (*cough cough* tweets) disagreeing with NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem as a protest towards violence against Black Americans. These players are exercising their right to protest in a peaceful way. His tweets read:
Demanding players be fired for their freedom of speech, especially when it is for the good of US citizens’, is directly contradictory to one of the fundamental rights that “makes America great”. These tweets are especially offensive after the President called the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville “very fine people”. Less than a month later he has the audacity to call an NFL player who protests during the National Anthem a “son of a bitch.” His use of the word “bitch” should be enough to bring about anger but, unfortunately, no one can be surprised by his rhetoric anymore.
Many sports fans believe that athletics are not a place for politics. Unfortunately, our current political climate calls for everywhere to be a place of politics. The Penguins wouldn’t have been the first professional sports team to take a stand against the president. Players in the NFL have been standing (or kneeling) against the currently political state of America. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors refused to visit the White House after winning the NBA finals.
Donald Trump tweeted an attack on Steph Curry, uninviting the team to the White House: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
“But the NHL doesn’t have to get in on the politics!” some might say. Get this: It already has.
The NHL has officially made February the Hockey is for Everyone Month. Teams sell shirts sporting the rainbow flag and players deck out their sticks with rainbow tape. It makes everyone, especially members of the LGBT+ community, feel welcome. Players like the Capitals’ Braden Holtby and Canucks players Jake Virtanen, Erik Gudbranson, and Troy Stecher have march in their city’s pride parades. The Penguins hosted a “Hockey is for Everyone” game and sold the t-shirts. Clearly, it was only for show.
Support for the LGBT+ community is useless and offensive if the support is not unconditional. You cannot support the community while simultaneously paying regards to a man who discriminates against trans people in the military and opposes same sex marriage.
The Penguins have made their decision. Now it is up to the players to decide what to do. Hopefully they will take the lead from Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry. It is time for them to take the road less traveled, because it will make all the difference.