You are probably expecting something written about today's preseason game against the St. Louis Blues. I mean Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil, Kessel, and Kris Letang will all be in the lineup. Letang was even awarded the assistant captain honor on a full-time basis. That's about as exciting as preseason hockey gets! However, It is impossible to ignore what is going on in the United States from a current events standpoint.
Athletes all around the sporting world are protesting against the President of the United States and his out in the open bigotry. These athletes are mostly African American and they are tired of the blatant racist undertones of not only this administration, but of how they have been treated in their own communities around the country. The protests started being centered around kneeling during the national anthem and have now extended to declining invites from the President after they win championships. I say good for them. They are not protesting the flag or the anthem. They are protesting police brutality and inequality. They are using their public forum to bring attention and hopefully action for things that are objectively bad.
"Stick to sports!" is the rallying cry of those that aren't impacted by any of this. They sit by idle and are super annoyed because real life things are beginning to bleed into their entertainment platforms. Too bad.
"Stick to sports!" conveniently ignores that the President is nothing more than a reality TV star who has had a silver spoon his entire life. He drums up the "Hollywood elite" narrative to his base, but he is a complete hypocrite.
"Stick to sports!" ignores the fact that we just got done celebrating Muhammad Ali's life for doing the exact opposite. It also ignores the fact that what Ali was doing was wildly unpopular in the moment. The same could be said about Jackie Robinson. The same could be said about the recent protests. Of course they aren't popular! The entire genesis of these protests is because certain issues are being completely ignored either through ignorance or willful participation.
Here is the President permanently beating down the "Stick to sports!" meme.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'" Trump said. "You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country."
Total disregard for the first amendment. Not the 20th, not the 17th, the very first one.
Of course these sons of bitches he is referencing are not Caucasian. If they were they would be known as "very fine people" like his white supremacist supporters in Charlottesville. Taking a knee during a song is more egregious than running somebody down with their car to this President.
Some of the most recognizable personalities in the NBA have had enough and are speaking their mind.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
That is the NBA's biggest star making a huge statement in a situation that involved his biggest on-court rival. Can you imagine Sidney Crosby doing something like that? Yeah, me either.
Hockey players don't feel the need to talk about these things and it isn't limited to Sidney Crosby. These issues aren't even a blip on the radar in the majority of hockey player's lives. Hockey players and the socio-economics it takes to play the sport are immune from the things that are being protested. It isn't an everyday part of life. It is easy to ignore and turn a blind eye. It takes a ton of money to play hockey at its lowest levels. It takes even more for a player to rise up far enough in the ranks to be paid as a professional. The people being negatively impacted and the reasons being protested stem from poverty and lack of opportunity. Something that isn't prominent in hockey culture.
That's why the Penguins thought they could just take a neutral stance and everything would be OK.
The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. 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.
The content is just as tone deaf as the timing of the announcement. They are completely wrong and it didn't take long for the President to politicize their pending appearance.
Please to inform that the Champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL will be joining me at the White House for Ceremony. Great team!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
It didn't take long for right leaning outlets to use the Penguins press release today as their own personal pawn
They will be visiting an administration that in no uncertain terms exudes racism and bigotry at every turn. They are attempting to stay neutral in a situation where there is no neutral. This is such a hockey culture thing to do. Don't speak out. Do what you are told. Don't make any waves. Remember this is a sport that couldn't handle Alexander Ovechkin pretending his stick was on fire after scoring a goal.
This is a league that espouses such phrases as "you can play" and "hockey is for everyone" However, hockey is not for everyone. It never was and it never will be with the current culture in the sport and current socio-economic climate. It's just a nice catch phrase to throw out there. How can hockey be for "everyone" when you remain neutral on racism/bigotry through your actions? There is no neutral. There is no middle of the road statement to make. In modern society you cannot separate current events from sports into nice neat boxes. We are in the information age. Everything is blended together. The "stick to sports!" attitude is reserved for those who want to be conveniently ignorant.
In life there are many shades of gray. This topic isn't one of them. You're either on one side or the other. The Pittsburgh Penguins in their attempt to remain neutral have shown what side they are on. Being neutral never helps out the victims. It only empowers the people that are committing acts of oppression.
I stand with the players who are protesting. I am able to understand that they are not protesting against the flag or the United States of America. In fact it is the complete opposite. They are protesting so that they can feel like they are an equal part of the flag and country. Something that many of us take for granted and probably shouldn't.
I'm not going to "Stick to sports!" I'm a health teacher. It is literally my job to teach about empathy, acceptance. and tolerance of others.
Much like the players who will be protesting today I am using my platform to spread a message of kindness and tolerance. These are lessons that I teach in my classroom and lessons that are apparently needed for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the general public.
I know where I stand on this issue. Do you, Penguins? There is no sticking to sports anymore.
Thanks for reading!