On a Sunday morning in which the sports world is embroiled in a public conversation about police brutality and the appropriateness of peaceful protest, the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that they will accept President Donald Trump’s invitation to the White House.
The brilliance of the announcement’s timing is matched only by the moral courage of its contents.
Background: on Saturday, President Trump rescinded his invitation to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry voiced his disapproval of the administration. The President also said on Twitter that any NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired.
Many football players around the league are expected to kneel today, including former players like Ray Lewis, who previously criticized the protest, which was started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. NFL team management and ownership have released various statements supporting their players, though none of these statements so far mentions the specific reasons for the protests.
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel before a game in 2016 (Photo: Michael Zagaris)
There’s your context, and here’s the statement from the Penguins:
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 team defends its decision to accept the invitation based on precedent; they visited Obama and Bush I, so why would they snub this President?
In a mealymouthed way, the statement’s closing seems to provide individual players the option to decline to attend. So, in effect, the Penguins just invited the press to ask every one of their players about their personal politics.
Not minutes after the announcement, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they would not appear on the field at all for the anthem at their game in Chicago tonight.
— Jamie Erdahl 💍 Buckman (@JamieErdahl) September 24, 2017
Totally unrelated: earlier this month the NHL and other hockey leagues announced their Declaration of Principles.
If you’d like to learn more about the specific policy goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, I recommend reading about Campaign Zero.
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