Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The unwanted White House visit

This week in "nobody asked you" (or maybe they did, but... it's Pittsburgh so I didn't notice), the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would go forward with the traditional Stanley Cup winners' visit to the White House. I get it, they're trying to be different. They're trying not to get disinvited like Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors did, or find themselves the focus of a propaganda storm like many NFL players now are. I guess #PleaseLikeMySport has extended beyond Twitter and is now a reality of the American political spectrum.

In a way, I get it. Some people want to be Taylor Swift: they want to control their image, keep focus on them, exclude themselves from the narrative. They don't want to risk losing profits just by making a statement. They're afraid to agree AND to disagree. They have made their choice to remain apolitical in an increasingly politically charged society. We as spectators are not obligated to agree with that choice.

I certainly don't agree with that choice. But I can see how being voluntold to visit the White House, at a time and in a climate so toxic and unfavourable, could work for someone who doesn't want to be there. Here's what I would do if I were a Pittsburgh Penguin right now:

I'd consider skipping the day altogether, regardless of whether or not I was allowed to. (I mean, I can just use the same excuse that Jonathan Drouin did that one time, right?)

If not, I'd go, but refuse to shake any hands, be photographed with, or speak to any of this government's major players unless I had an opportunity to truly take the time to say a few important things to them. The business of sports is held afloat by exactly the same kind of people that this regime has tried to silence, and it's time someone did something. Maybe my words would hold some value as a Stanley Cup winner, a fellow face of NBC, and one of the few athletes willing to even breathe the same air as an undeserving world leader. Then again, maybe they wouldn't.

I could also refuse to bring the Stanley Cup to the people who run the White House, and make the visit about the people who keep things running day-to-day. I'd meet the journalists who mill around the press room, waiting to be fed lies in the hope of exposing something important. I'd meet the housekeepers who probably don't get enough thanks for their work. I'd meet the chef who makes that famous chocolate cake. A Stanley Cup is not won by one goal. It's won by an entire team and the staff who supports them. It's high time someone acknowledges the White House's team, the people who get left behind when all the news out of Washington is bad news.

That, or I'd ask to be left in the Oval Office alone so I could shout some Scandal quotes at the Stanley Cup.