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Penguins acceptance of Trump’s White House invitation odd, but opportune.

September 25, 2017 Leave a comment

At the beginning of June, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, stating that he was acting on the grounds that he represents the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Now at the end of September of the same year, mirroring the US election results in which Hillary Clinton received 75% of the Steel City’s vote, the actual people who reside in Pittsburgh have again made it clear that they don’t all agree with President Trump’s sentiments.

Trump’s incendiary comments at a rally speech on September 22nd regarding NFL players following Colin Kaepernick’s lead in taking a knee during the American national anthem, and subsequent withdrawing of Stephen Curry’s invitation to visit the White House (along with the rest of the Golden State Warriors) to recognize his team’s NBA championship win due to Curry’s “hesitation” to accept the invitation, sparked a torrent of social media based backlash from many professional athletes from across North America’s “Big 4” sports leagues (for starters, see: Blake Wheeler, NHL; LeBron James, NBA; Bruce Maxwell, MLB) as well as press releases in the media, and public displays prior to games from team owners, management, and players all standing together in solidarity against Trump, and the larger narrative of racism in America. The Pittsburgh Steelers (followed in kind by the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks) opted to not be present on the field during the national anthem in direct protest to Trump’s stance – though the Steelers’ offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva did come out to salute the flag and sing along against the wishes of his head coach.

While representatives of the NFL, MLB, and NBA all made statements and took different degrees of action, the NHL also responded, though not in sync with everyone else.

The Steelers’ city mates, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are the NHL’s most recent Stanley Cup champions, took the road less travelled, releasing a statement on September 24th in acceptance of the President’s invitation to bring their trophy to the White House, give him a jersey, and pose for pictures, confirming Trump’s tweet on the same day about their pending visit. No date is set, however, which hints this statement release was anything but coincidental, and suggests very odd and questionable support for Trump and his recent words.

“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,” reads the latter half of the Penguins’ media release.

There are keywords in that paragraph to hone in on – firstly, the notion that the Penguins respect other people’s rights to free speech and expression, just not those of their own personnel, apparently. Secondly, that a political disagreement can be expressed in a way other than declining an invitation to visit the White House, and rub shoulders with a demonstrably terrible human being and even worse world leader. What exactly could that alternative angle be?

Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby, ran further with that same idea in a later interview, scratching the surface of something quite tangible, if you let the concept breathe for a moment.

“I still feel like we look at it as an opportunity. We respect the office of the White House. People have that right to not go, too. Nobody’s saying they have to go. As a group, we decided to go,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on September 24th.

If what Crosby says about none of the Penguins being forced to go is true, we’ll have to see if any of them decide to pull a 2012 Tim Thomas and skip out on the event due to political disagreement (or other pro athletes who have done the same in the past) while his whole team still goes – if that were to be any of them, some might suggest it be Ryan Reaves, the only black player on Pittsburgh’s roster, though Reaves was born in Winnipeg, Canada. But they also have 16 American born players in their lineup, and an owner in Ron Burkle who knows Donald Trump personally, who all could take that opportunity of a public audience with the President that others are either declining or being disqualified from possessing – the opportunity to have an open, visible discourse with Trump, to air grievances in a diplomatic fashion, have their voice heard, and simply hear what he has to say in response. Every player will surely get the chance to look Trump in the eye and shake his hand if only for a moment – what they do with those precious few seconds could go a long way in either direction, or absolutely nowhere at all.

It would be the perfect opportunity for the NHL to start practicing what they recently started preaching, in accordance to excerpts from the league’s recently developed and published official Declaration of Principles:

We Believe: The game of hockey is a powerful platform for participants to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills. These benefits are available to all players, desirable to every family and transcend the game. Hockey’s greatest value is the role it plays in the development of character and life skills. We believe in our ability to improve lives and strengthen communities globally through hockey.  

All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

Integrity: We do the right thing, not the easy thing. We have courage on and off the ice.

Wouldn’t it be something to see someone outside of Trump’s inner circle, or the hosts of Fox and Friends, try to talk some sense into him face-to-face, rather than through TV or Twitter? We’ve all seen how well Trump remotely dialogues with his fellow Americans and foreign leaders alike through his preferred social media vehicle of Twitter. While the statements all professional athletes have been making thus far are valid and meaningful, none of them have been channeled directly at Trump’s face, not transmitted through a screen. As juvenile as it would be, Trump basically can basically still say, “Oh yeah? Why don’t you say that to my face?” to it all. And this seems to be the opportunity that the Penguins truly have, as I hope Crosby was eluding to. Might then a hockey player, generally considered fair, conservative and level-headed, be the perfect person to bring a slant of reason to this president? Trump may not listen to any of it, but at the very least someone from the Penguins could convey a message. Hopefully the team makes the most of the chance their captain already knows they have. Either they tap into the character they have developed through hockey, use courage and their powerful platform to transcend the game and do the right thing in helping all families feel included regardless of their minority status, or they instead do the easy thing that would be just showing up to smile for the cameras, nod when spoken to, and give classic canned answers to reporters while they tour the oval office and admire the furniture. I know which option I would prefer.

***UPDATE***
On October 10, 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins visited Donald Trump at the White House, and did and said nothing. 😦

Sports Shorts: Brian Burke Getting Trump-ed, Hometown Hockey Allegiances Query, Basketball Beaks, Marion Jones, and more.

December 1, 2010 5 comments

Sometimes while watching late-night hockey highlights, I’ll zone out and come to again right in the middle of NBA highlights.  As I shake the cobwebs, it’s always a mad dash to get that channel changed asap to something more worthy of my attention (so, pretty much anything else on any other channel, except more NBA highlights).  So, here are some recent sports observations…

Does Brian Burke not ever have 5 minutes to comb his hair and freshen up?  Can we give this guy a 10 minute break for a shower so he can clean up and make himself presentable?  I know it’s a hair-tearing-out environment in Toronto these days, but come on Burkey, you’re getting a little Donald Trump-ish.  I’m sure the potential pending sale of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment isn’t helping either. 

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So the Canucks were the heavy pre-season prediction favourite to win the Stanley Cup, then they lost a few, won a few, lost a few more, and now the discussion is that this may be Alain Vigneault’s last season as Canucks coach if they don’t deliver.  Oh, predictable Vancouver bandwagon dumpings…

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If a team moves, and then a new team starts in the same city, should fans cheer for the team that used to be there (which is inherently the same group of people that left), or stay true to the city and cheer for the new one?  Example: Atlanta Flames move to Calgary, become the Calgary Flames.  Atlanta eventually incarnates the Thrashers; so should those original Atlanta Flames fans now return to the homeland and cheer for the Thrashers, or are they justified in staying Calgary fans?  Same scenario in Minnesota (North Stars to Dallas, Wild now in Minny), and Colorado (Rockies to NJ in ’82, Avalanche sprout up) in recent history.

Mitch Pollock is the inspiration for the "Mitch Pollock Made Me Hate The Calgary Flames" facebook group.

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Based purely on talent and consistency, the Detroit Red Wings are the most overall dominant team of the modern age of hockey, agreed?  From the Yzerman and Federov era to the current Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen et al generation, all mixed in with a handful of Stanley Cup wins, it’s tough to argue this isn’t hockey’s version of the New York Yankees.

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The people who broke into Pat Burns’ widow’s car and stole his stuff booked themselves a one-way, non-refundable ticket to hell, did they not?  I’m still rattled at the Hall of Fame that they couldn’t do that guy the favour of waiving his mandatory waiting period or whatever so he could enter the Hall of Fame WHILE HE WAS ALIVE.  3 Jack Adams Trophies for coach of the year honors (on three different teams), and a Stanley Cup; are there deeper pre-requisites for HOF entrance? 

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I recently saw Marion Jones’ ESPN 30 for 30 special… does it say more about Marion Jones and her athletic ability that she walked on to a WNBA with very little previous basketball experience (played with UNC); or less about the WNBA, a league that is supposed to boast the best female basketball players in the world, yet people can just walk on and make their teams, as Jones has done with the Tulsa Shock?

Bad Press, Jackass: The Kanye West and Taylor Swift Swindle.

September 24, 2009 4 comments

Since September 13, the most talked about entertainment news story has been the drama of Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. While hearing the same repeated sentiments of what a sorry excuse for a human being Kayne is, I decided to do a little deeper research into the matter. Without a doubt, it was a dickard move, on Kanye’s part. However, while doing a little digging, there are a few small nuggets of information that I haven’t heard brought to the public’s attention. Let me present a couple of different angles on the incident that you may not have considered.

Kanye West raps and produces under the Roc-A-Fella Records (founded by Jay-Z) label, which is owned by Def Jam Records, which is in turn owned by Universal Music Group. Taylor Swift makes music for Big Machine Records, which has its records distributed by the same Universal Music Group. Intrinsically, Kanye West are “label-mates.”

While I don’t put controversy schemes past Kanye, don’t write off Swift as the innocent victim quite yet, this isn’t her t-pain swiftfirst encounter with hip-hop. She collaborated with rapper T-Pain on a remix of her own song at the CMT Music Awards in June 2009, called “Thug Story.” [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L52emsayp1o ] T-Pain has appeared on more than one song with Kanye, collaborating on songs like “Good Life” (which won a Grammy in 2007), and “Go Hard” (2008). I doubt very much that Kanye hadn’t heard of Taylor Swift before this night. T-Pain raps for Jive Records, who are owned by Sony Music Entertainment, who also happen to house Beyonce via Columbia Records. More on her later…

Everyone talked about how that night at the MVA’s was Taylor Swift’s “moment”, but lets be honest, she only won “Best FEMALE Video”, not “Video of the Year” (which is open to BOTH genders). I mean, sure it’s an accomplishment, but it’s not like she was taking home the award of the night by at any rate. And when did the trophies from an MTV Awards show become so career-altering anyways?

Beyonce “saved face” after Kanye proclaimed her as the deserving winner of the award; and had Taylor come on stage and say her thank-you’s during Beyonce’s own acceptance speech; a classy move [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOIOanr3JOo ].  Oddly, Beyonce and Swift seemed to be wearing the same dress.   Anyone who knows much about music gossip knows that Beyonce is (allegedly) married to Kanye West’s boss, Jay-Z, who just so happens to have just released and touring with his latest album, “Blueprint 3.” Also, Kanye did produce Beyonce’s 2003 album “Dangerously in Love,” as well as 6 Jay-Z albums. Coincidence?

I thought Jay would have been cursing the day that he ever let Kanye West out of the production studio and into thekanye drunk public eye when he heard about the incident at the VMA’s. But while Donald Trump called for a boycott of all things Kanye West, every musician and every news show on TV and radio wrote off Kanye and labeled him as an alcoholic and spotlight nympho, and even The President of the F’n United States of America, Barack Obama, called ‘Ye “a jackass” [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=078BGtKNL1o ], Jigga stepped up to defend Kanye, saying, “He didn’t kill anybody…” agreeing that the outburst was “inappropriate at the time.” He also added Kanye’s “just a super-passionate person… Of course it was rude because it was (Taylor’s) moment but that’s the way he really felt…..I think it was rude but the way they’re treating him… He’s on the cover of every paper…He didn’t kill anybody. No one got harmed.” [http://www.mtv.ca/vma/2009/article.jhtml?id=20490] The only other person I know who has mentioned anything in Kanye’s defence is my friend, Andy Smith, over at “Smithy Blogs,” who wrote this blog http://tinyurl.com/smithkanyeblog that you can read on your own time.

Kanye has since apologized publicly numerous times, and Swift “eventually” accepted the “sorry.” So, how long, would you say, will we have to wait for the duets and album collaborations and guest apperances between them? My guess is that Universal and Sony Music are way ahead of us. In a time where record companies are losing piles of money in CD sales, learning how to profit off of digital downloads, and throwing lawsuits at people who download illegally, is it that crazy to think that two record companies would thrust a few very marketable individuals into the spotlight to generate an enormous media buzz to, in turn, boost sales? Bad press for Kanye, good press for Swift; and everyone’s talking and writing about them both. No press is bad press, right?

Kanye is a jackass though.

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