While the sports world focused Sunday on the NFL and its reaction to incendiary recent statements by President Trump, the Pittsburgh Penguins inserted themselves into the sporting world’s ongoing political discussion by issuing a statement that the team would visit the White House as part of their Stanley Cup celebration.
The Penguins, on the heels of their second consecutive Stanley Cup win this past June, still plan to visit President Trump, though a date has not yet been confirmed. The Penguins released the statement at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, right as a handful of professional athletes and owners continue to denounce recent comments and tweets Trump has issued regarding the NFL, national anthem protests and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s now-rescinded invitation to visit the White House with his team.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House,” the Penguins’ statement reads. “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.”
After Curry indicated he would not go to the White House, Trump responded with this tweet on Saturday morning:
This was amid a flurry of tweets regarding the sporting world’s intersection with political and social issues, and Trump continued Sunday morning by tweeting, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” This makes the timing of the Penguins’ statement curious, as NFL players and coaches have spent Sunday contesting Trump’s recent comments and sharing messages of unity. Sunday started with many players demonstrating during the national anthem ahead of the Ravens-Jaguars game in London, with players kneeling or linking arms on both sidelines. There is expected to be a major increase in national anthem demonstrations as nine more games kick off at 1 p.m.
Athletic protests of current social and political issues have mostly been concentrated in the NFL and NBA across the last two years. The Warriors have responded to Trump’s tweet about Curry by saying they will not be attending the White House at all. The Penguins, however, followed that by saying they have every intention to.
Here was Trump’s response to the Penguins’ stated plan to pay him a visit, which he tweeted Sunday afternoon: