Penguins, Trump Stick to Script in White House Visit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Starting with the organizational statement released Sept. 24—a few hours after President Trump tweeted that NFL players protesting social injustices by kneeling during the national anthem should be suspended or fired for their actions—the Pittsburgh Penguins have insisted that Tuesday afternoon’s appearance at the White House was an apolitical event. “Nobody’s choosing a side,” head coach Mike Sullivan said after Trump spoke for 13-plus minutes in the East Room, as players flanked him on risers. “Nobody’s taking a stand. We are simply honoring our championship and the accomplishments of this group of players.”

They are tremendous athletic achievements, no doubt. Back-to-back Stanley Cups, the first repeat run by an NHL team in two decades. Consecutive playoff MVP honors for captain Sidney Crosby, which hadn’t happened in 25 years. A fifth career ring for Hall-of-Fame owner Mario Lemieux, “one of the all-time greats,” according to Trump, “and a really great golfer too.” The Penguins visited Barack Obama after winning in ‘08-09 and ‘15-16, as well as with George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. According to Sullivan, it was an “honor,” a “celebration,” and “a terrific experience” to experience the same with Trump.

The President appeared to rarely veer from the teleprompter script in his remarks. He asked if the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh’s upcoming opponents, were a “tough” team.

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