The Fix's Eugene Scott explores the vocabulary that President Trump uses to refer to his supporters. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

When the Pittsburgh Penguins — the current National Hockey League champions — visited the White House earlier this month, President Trump praised the team for its commitment to American values:

“You are true, true champions — and incredible patriots,” Trump said.

It didn't matter that of the 18 players who won the cup last season and are still with the Penguins, only seven are American. All of them were  held up as examples.

“You embody the values of dedication, discipline, and hard work,” Trump said. “To every young American watching today, we encourage you to always strive to be your best, to do your best, and to give your all.”

The praise came hours after the president's latest attack on National Football League players protesting racism and police violence by kneeling during the national anthem.

The Fix's Callum Borchers ran the numbers and found the NFL is the most American sport, with many of its players hailing from states where troops are also most likely from. And according to the latest Harris Poll, 1 in 3 people surveyed say football is their favorite sport.

But despite the NFL players, whom Trump criticized again Monday, participating in an iconically American pastime, Trump isn't likely to call former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick a “true American patriot” anytime soon. In fact, Kaepernick  has constantly been questioned by Trump and those who hold his perspective of what it means to be a patriot.

Because when it comes to epitomizing loyalty to Americanism, Trump's idea tends to be more consistent with the traditional values of the country's more conservative communities.

That's why at a rally in Alabama last month for Sen. Luther Strange (R), Trump pivoted from praising a candidate's “American values” to a long-held symbol of Americana: professional football.

For many Americans who voted for Trump, his appeal to years gone by spoke to a Norman Rockwell-like America that many conservative or older Americans consider long gone.

The United States is less white, less Christian and more ethnically diverse today than in decades past. And those changes, plus more related to sexual orientation and gender roles, make some Americas long for a different time.

For many, this is what Trump's campaign slogan — Make America Great Again — was all about.

To many of those Trump supporters, American culture at its core does not criticize the military or welcome non-English speakers, non-Christians or even people who have liberal values.

These values were set by the historically dominant culture in America, according to an influential theory that argues that politically dominant groups effectively claim “ownership of the nation,” according to the Monkey Cage blog's Michael Tesler. He wrote:

Consistent with that contention, social psychology research finds that for many “to be American is implicitly synonymous with being white.” Moreover, whites who feel a sense of solidarity with other whites have historically felt more strongly attached to such symbols of patriotism as the national anthem and the American flag.

And it is often these Americans that Trump credits for his victory, as he did at the Strange rally in Alabama.

“I think we won because of the military. I think we won because of the vets. I think we won because of the evangelicals,” he said.

Despite the feeling of many conservatives that their values are no longer prominent, Republicans control the White House, Senate and Congress as well as most legislatures and gubernatorial offices.

That gives some Trump supporters hope that those with the most traditional values will be acknowledged as the true patriots.

“We believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation. The enemy is trying to take it in another direction, not Christianity,” said Linda Shebsta, a Burelson, Tex., resident who joined other conservative Christian women on the Mall earlier this week for a prayer event.

Shebsta told The Post's Julie Zauzmer that the Supreme Court's authorization of same-sex marriage was proof of Satan at work during the Obama administration. “We believe God put Donald Trump in,” she said.

Regardless of how Trump got to the White House, he has promised Americans with traditional values that he will carry out the pledges he made to them on the campaign trail.

“As long as we have pride in our country, confidence in our future, and faith in our God, then America will prevail,” he said this past weekend at the Values Voters Summit.  “We will defeat every evil, overcome every threat, and meet every single challenge.  We will defend our faith and protect our traditions.”

“We will pass on the blessings of liberty and the glories of God to our children,” he added to roaring applause.  “Our values will endure.”