Sports Hockey

Burgess: Now I can hate the Penguins even more

In this June 11, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, in Nashville, Tenn. Opportunistic, well-coached and talented, Pittsburgh has won eight consecutive playoff series to become the NHL’s only back-to-back Stanley Cup champion of the salary-cap era and the first since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. Now everyone’s trying to figure out how to stop the march of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins as they go for the three-peat. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

In this June 11, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, in Nashville, Tenn. Opportunistic, well-coached and talented, Pittsburgh has won eight consecutive playoff series to become the NHL’s only back-to-back Stanley Cup champion of the salary-cap era and the first since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. Now everyone’s trying to figure out how to stop the march of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins as they go for the three-peat. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

VANCOUVER  - 

I am grateful to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Up until this week my strong dislike of the franchise could have been called irrational.

I just didn't like that team. That's the way it is a lot of the time—you hate a franchise just, well, because.

But now, thank goodness, my dislike of the Penguins can be based on a far more rational foundation. The defending Stanley Cup champions chose this weekend to announce that they would accept an invitation to Donald Trump's White House.

This was just after Trump had called protesting NFL athletes “sons of bitches” who should be fired. He also disinvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Pathetic.

It was a “you're not breaking up with me, I'm breaking up with you” move by Trump after Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry had already said the team didn't want to go to the White House. On Sunday, NFL players, owners, and even broadcasters banded together to show Trump that the protesters taking a knee during the American national anthem were in fact serious young men trying to draw attention to serious issues.

That's when the Penguins decided to jump onto the Trump wagon. The Penguins insisted they were doing no such thing and that agreeing to visit the White House was not the same as playing politics. Hard to see how they maintain such a great power play when they miss the point so badly. (Ooh, two minutes for that sick burn.)

For the Penguins to say they are not part of this political dispute is like saying a puck isn't part of a hockey game. Trump immediately tweeted triumphantly about the Penguins' decision, basically using the Penguins as a stick to beat his critics.

Like it or not, the Penguins were taking a side. They made themselves into the Pittsburgh Puppets. I can now boo them with even greater conviction.

Defending the flag isn't supposed to be about fighting for the actual, multi-coloured piece of dyed cloth flapping on a stick—it's supposed to be about what the flag represents, including the freedom to protest. If defending your country means fighting for a bright rag and a catchy song, your country isn't worth defending. Happily, a great many people understand what Donald Trump and his fans don't seem to—America is about much more than blind obedience to symbols.

The Trump presidency is demonstrating who gets it and who doesn't.