The Penguins in the White House

Why are the NHL champions visiting Donald Trump?

Penguins Championship
Pittsburgh Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin hold the Stanley Cup during the Stanley Cup championship parade and rally in downtown Pittsburgh [Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY/Reuters]

Professional ice hockey is a white man’s sport.

Most of the owners are white. Most of the coaches and managers are white. Most of the players are white. Most of the people who pay for an expensive seat to watch a game in an arena are white. Most of the people who watch on TV are white. Most of the reporters who cover the sport are white (and men). Most of the people who work for the world’s premier league, the National Hockey League (NHL), are white, including the president.

The game is played on white ice. The aim: keep a small, black puck out of your net and put it in the other team’s net, that features, of course, white netting.

This blizzard of whiteness may be a big part of the reason why last year’s Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, with their white owner, manager, players and star captain, Sidney Crosby, have decided to meet a white president who sees and responds to the world in, well, sinister black and white.

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The Penguins say, in a statement, that they’re keeping their promise to meet President Trump on Tuesday at the White House because they’re just being polite and respectful. 

Look, they say, we were polite and respectful to Barack Obama (who is black) when we visited him at the White House after we won the Cup in 2016 and we were polite and respectful to George Bush II (who is white) when we visited him at the White House after we won the Cup in the early 1990s. Those visits, particularly with Obama, make our future visit with Trump sort of cancel each other out, if you know what we mean?

The Penguins also say, without actually saying it, that if anyone is upset because they’re meeting with a guy that some hockey fans, former players and big-name Canadian sportswriters don’t like, for lots of good reasons, you can go ahead and be upset because that’s your right, but we’re not upset at all. So, stuff it, we’re going to shake the guy’s hand and pose for pictures with him that we will frame and put up proudly on a wall at home, the office or maybe both. 

We’re only being polite and respectful. That’s what hockey players are: polite and respectful. Get it. Oh, and we’re humble, too. We’re mostly from small towns in Canada, the United States and Europe and we’ve always been told to respect our elders.

Mr Trump is the president of the United States. He’s an important man, with an important job. Gee, he’s taking time to say: You’re hired, not fired! Who are we to say no to Mr President since he’s already congratulated our “great team” on Twitter for coming?

So what if we’re meeting a guy who calls white supremacists in polo shirts carrying tiki torches and making Nazi salutes very fine people“. So what if those “very fine people” have a long history of hate and have, in the not-so-distant past, enjoyed killing millions of children, women and men in ovens or hanged them from trees because they’re black, brown, Jews, Muslims, Roma, homosexuals, sick, or decent people who think racists are scum.

Remember, we’re just polite and humble hockey players.

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So what if we’re meeting a guy who says he likes to “grab” women – like our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters – “by the p****“. So what if he has allegedly tried to do that with oodles of women and they have reportedly said loudly and clearly no and he didn’t take that too well. 

Remember, we’re just polite and humble hockey players.

So what if we’re meeting a guy who calls Mexicans rapists and tries, again and again, to ban people from coming to Pittsburgh or anywhere else in the US because they are Muslim. By the way, like Trump, we don’t get to meet a lot of Mexicans or Muslims in our silly line of work.  

Remember, we’re just polite and humble hockey players. 

So what if we’re meeting a guy who calls Puerto Ricans ingrates while their lives, hopes and futures have been washed away by a hurricane. So what if we’re meeting a guy who calls black athletes who’ve had it with being stopped by white police officers because they’re black and are exhausted at watching a chorus line of white police officers go free for murdering unarmed black men, sons of b******.

Remember, we’re just polite and humble hockey players.

So give us a break. OK? We’re good guys. Really. Look, we “give back to the community” in many ways. We donate some of the tonne of money we make to help poor kids – white, black and brown. We visit kids in the hospital all the time to make them forget about being sick for awhile.

After we visit those kids, we tell reporters: Boy, what a reality check. Do we ever understand now that other people don’t have it as good. Man, there’s a lot of suffering and injustice.

But we don’t like to talk about the kind of suffering and injustice all those black football players are taking a knee to expose and do something about. That’s “politics”. We don’t play “politics”. It’s not our style. Most of us couldn’t find Charlottesville, Virginia on a map if we tried and probably don’t know who Heather Heyer is.

We don’t say or do much about that kind of suffering and injustice because, fact is, we’re mostly white guys who’ve never seen, let alone experienced it. (JT Brown, a black winger with the Tampa Bay Lightning, no doubt, has. That’s why he raised his fist in protest during the US national anthem before a tilt on Saturday night in Florida.)

Anyway, ever since we’ve been kids, we’ve been told to fit in, not stick out. That’s the best way to make it to the big leagues. You learn to keep your mouth, eyes and brain shut and just play hockey.

What’s happening in the real world, to people who don’t look like us or come from the same part of the world as us, isn’t our worry or bother. Remember, we’re polite, humble and white.

Like Captain Canada, Sidney Crosby, said: “This isn’t [about] us taking a stance”. Hey, most of us have never taken a stance about anything other than where to play hockey and for as much money as we possibly can.

So, hell yeah, we’re going to stand next to Donald Trump – literally and figuratively. You see, he’s our kind of guy in more ways than one.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.