Bob McKenzie Offers The Pittsburgh Penguins Some Advice

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On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they would accept an invitation from President Trump to visit the White House. By doing so, they cast their lot in with NASCAR and against the NFL and the Golden State Warriors. What is incredible is the timing. This week the President of the United States, cursed out some NFL players and disinvited the Golden State Warriors from the White House. Once again members of this administration came just short of breaking the law when they used the office of the President to comment on the business of a private company.

Bob McKenzie Offers The Pittsburgh Penguins Some Advice

On the decision to attend, Sidney Crosby was quoted suggesting:

I support it. It’s a great honour for us to be invited there…we’ve been invited and we accepted the invitation. I don’t think you have to read into it any more than that.

People will read into it, though. Just as they judged Tim Thomas’ refusal to meet then President Obama in 2012, they will judge those who attend this year.

Bob McKenzie has some advice for the Pens.

Some are suggesting this decision was made “politics aside.” Indeed, Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle is a longtime donor to Democratic candidates. He supports honoring the tradition of winning teams visiting the White House.

Unprecedented Unity

However, this decision occurs amidst unprecedented unity among professional athletes, coaches, owners, and many fans. Like it or not, attending will be taken as support for a President who mocks protest against police brutality and racial injustice while calling anti-Semites “very fine people.

It has gotten so bad that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was forced to issue a statement this weekend.

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

The purported issue here is how to understand patriotism and protest in a democracy. Unfortunately, bumper sticker nationalism has replaced informed debate. There may be something else going on as well. There is a growing recognition that this conflation of politics, sport, and the military was by design. When the government funds military tributes at sporting events they link the military with sports and by extension militarism with patriotism.

Denouncing Peaceful Protest is Inherently Political

The office of the President deserves respect. Not everyone agrees on political matters and at least some decent people support Trump. This is a moment of pomp and circumstance, of recognizing elite athletes playing the fastest (and greatest) sport in the world.

This seems different somehow. This is not about a complex policy disagreement. It is simple. Do you or do you not agree that Mr. Trump should observe and respect democratic norms?

It doesn’t matter your political views. Your opinion on the value of peaceful protests against the wanton killing of non-white people is irrelevant. A President of any party should not try to interfere with the operation of sports teams or leagues. These are private companies and organizations. The President shouldn’t personally disinvite a basketball team because they wanted to consider the implications of visiting the White House. The President of the United States violates basic constitutional principles when he attempts to stifle dissent and peaceful protest. Ignoring the consequences of such behavior in a democracy cannot be justified.

When the Captain and most valuable player of the two-time Stanley Cup winning team supported this visit, he is asking to be judged by fans and by history. I’m sorry to say to my fellow “bluenoser,” the judgments will not be kind.

“Everyone’s got the right to go or not to go,” Crosby said. “But we’ve been invited and we accepted the invitation.”

The Penguins as an organization have made a choice here. Now it is the players’ turn. I hope they listen to Bob.

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Embed from Getty Images

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