Trump sticks to hockey

U.S. pres­i­dent calls Pen­guins ‘true cham­pi­ons and in­cred­i­ble pa­tri­ots’

Northumberland Today - - SPORTS - STEPHEN WHYNO

WASH­ING­TON — After adding to the up­roar over NFL play­ers who protest dur­ing the na­tional an­them, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump mostly stuck to hockey in hon­our­ing the Stan­ley Cup­win­ning Pitts­burgh Pen­guins on Tues­day, call­ing them “true cham­pi­ons and in­cred­i­ble pa­tri­ots.”

Trump wel­comed the Pen­guins into the Oval Of­fice and cel­e­brated their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive cham­pi­onship in the East Room of the White House. He sin­gled out the achieve­ments of play­off MVP Sid­ney Crosby, Ev­geni Malkin and Phil Kes­sel, among oth­ers.

Trump has grabbed a num­ber of sports head­lines in re­cent weeks, in­clud­ing his crit­i­cism of NFL play­ers for kneel­ing dur­ing the an­them and his de­ci­sion to dis­in­vite the NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors from the White House for the type of cham­pi­onship visit made by the Pen­guins, the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots and the Chicago Cubs along with Clem­son foot­ball team.

“Ev­ery­body wanted to be here to­day,” Trump said of the Pen­guins. “And I know why.”

Hours after tweet­ing that the tax code should be changed to pun­ish NFL teams over the an­them is­sue, Trump joked that Pen­guins co-owner Ron Burkle should help him rene­go­ti­ate NAFTA but largely avoided any talk about other sports.

“It’s been an hon­our to have them all here,” Trump said.

Crosby has said on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions that the team’s de­ci­sion to go to the White House was not po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Coach Mike Sul­li­van said the Pen­guins un­der­stand the cir­cum­stances of their visit and that he didn’t feel like Trump was us­ing them as a po­lit­i­cal prop.

“We’ve stated clearly from the get-go that our visit to the White House is not po­lit­i­cal,” Sul­li­van said. “No­body’s choos­ing a side. No­body’s tak­ing a stand. We are sim­ply hon­our­ing our cham­pi­onship and the ac­com­plish­ments of this group of play­ers over this sea­son or the last two sea­sons.”

Of the 18 play­ers who won the Cup last sea­son and are still with the Pen­guins, seven are Amer­i­can: Kes­sel, Ian Cole, Brian Du­moulin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Chad Ruh­wedel and Conor Sheary. Crosby and six oth­ers are Cana­dian, two are Swedish, one is Rus­sian and one is Fin­nish.

Trump con­grat­u­lated the Pen­guins for be­ing the first backto-back Cup cham­pi­ons since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, com­pli­mented co-owner Mario Lemieux’s golf game and drew boos when he ref­er­enced Pitts­burgh’s up­com­ing game against the ri­val Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals. He said he ex­pected the Pen­guins to be back at the White House next year.

“This is re­ally a truly great group of world cham­pi­ons,” Trump said. “That’s what they are. They’re world cham­pi­ons.”

Sul­li­van, the only mem­ber of the team who spoke to re­porters after the visit, said “zero” pol­i­tics came up with Trump be­hind closed doors.

Tampa Bay Light­ning for­ward J.T. Brown, one of 18 black play­ers in the NHL, be­came the first hockey player to en­gage in an an­them protest when he raised his fist while stand­ing on the bench be­fore a game Satur­day night. Sul­li­van said he wouldn’t have a prob­lem if one of his play­ers took a knee dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

“We’re very re­spect­ful of any­one’s right to protest or demon­strate as they see fit,” said Sul­li­van, who is Amer­i­can. “We’re very re­spect­ful of it.”

The Pen­guins had one black player on their cham­pi­onship team, Trevor Da­ley, but he signed with Detroit in the off-sea­son and did not travel to Wash­ing­ton be­cause the Red Wings were play­ing in Dal­las. They cur­rently have one black player, Ryan Reaves, but he and oth­ers ac­quired over the sum­mer who didn’t win the Cup also did not go to the White House.

Trump has called on NFL own­ers to fire play­ers who don’t stand for the an­them and urged fans to boy­cott games in a se­ries of tweets. He tweeted that he in­structed Vi­cePres­i­dent Mike Pence to leave a game be­tween the San Fran­cisco 49ers and In­di­anapo­lis Colts on Sun­day if there were any an­them protests, which Pence did.

NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman told The As­so­ci­ated Press re­cently that said he re­spects play­ers’ views on po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues and “peo­ple are go­ing to have to de­cide what makes them com­fort­able.” Bettman said so­cial is­sues “are a mat­ter of in­di­vid­ual be­lief and in­di­vid­ual choice.”

Sul­li­van also said the team pre­sented Trump with an undis­closed gift.

SU­SAN WALSH/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins’ cap­tain Sid­ney Crosby, third from left, lis­tens as U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, right, speaks about the 2017 NHL Stan­ley Cup Cham­pion Pitts­burgh Pen­guins, on Tues­day, dur­ing a cer­e­mony in the East Room of the White House, in Wash­ing­ton.

SHAWN BALD­WIN/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

In this Oct. 23, 2000, file photo, UN Sec­re­tary-General Kofi An­nan, left, jokes with box­ing great Muham­mad Ali dur­ing a photo ses­sion with UN Mes­sen­gers of Peace at the United Na­tions. Muham­mad Ali En­ter­prises is su­ing the Fox Broad­cast­ing Com­pany for more than $30 mil­lion for what it says was Fox’s unau­tho­rized use of the famed boxer’s im­age in a video that ran just be­fore its broad­cast of the 2017 Su­per Bowl. The fed­eral law­suit was filed Tues­day in Chicago.

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