ShareThis Page

Pittsburgh Penguins visit Trump at White House

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, 3:00 p.m.
President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at the White House.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at the White House.
President Donald Trump welcomes Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins' Phil Kessel Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at the White House.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Donald Trump welcomes Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins' Phil Kessel Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 at the White House.
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump delivers a speech during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017, honouring the Pittsburgh Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup victory.
AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump delivers a speech during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017, honouring the Pittsburgh Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup victory.
President Donald Trump delivers a speech during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017, honouring the Pittsburgh Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup victory. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump delivers a speech during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017, honouring the Pittsburgh Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup victory. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux stands next to First Lady Melania Trump at an event honouring the 2017 Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017.
AFP/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux stands next to First Lady Melania Trump at an event honouring the 2017 Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2017.
Mike Bolt, center, places the Stanley Cup on a table for display in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in preparation for a visit by the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins with President Donald Trump. Bolt is one of the four keepers of the Cup, whose job it is to protect the 35-pound, silver trophy that has nearly three thousand names engraved on the bands that surround it. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Mike Bolt, center, places the Stanley Cup on a table for display in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in preparation for a visit by the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins with President Donald Trump. Bolt is one of the four keepers of the Cup, whose job it is to protect the 35-pound, silver trophy that has nearly three thousand names engraved on the bands that surround it. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Ever since they accepted an invitation to the White House to celebrate their 2017 Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins insisted their attendance did not constitute a political act.

On the surface, President Donald Trump appeared to agree with them.

Trump made no overtly partisan or political remarks during a 10-plus minute address congratulating them on their accomplishments Tuesday afternoon in the East Room.

In fact, Trump's remarks were not significantly different from the speech President Barack Obama made when he welcomed the Penguins last year to celebrate their 2016 championship.

Trump praised Sidney Crosby as a winner and Evgeni Malkin as big and strong. He asked Phil Kessel if his sister, Amanda, was really the best hockey player in the family, though he said he doubted it.

Trump spent a good portion of his speech offering condolences to the victims of and praising first responders to wild fires in California, last week's shooting in Las Vegas and recent hurricanes.

"Over the last couple of months, the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs and the NCAA champion Clemson Tigers football have all visited the White House to celebrate their great victories," Trump said. "It's been an honor to have them all here. Now, I want to proudly welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins."

The circumstances surrounding the visit, of course, were manifestly different.

Trump has engaged in public acrimony with professional athletes in recent months, saying that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice should be fired.

As recently as Sunday, vice president Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game in Indianapolis when players took a knee during the national anthem.

Afterwards, coach Mike Sullivan was asked about the contention that merely appearing alongside Trump was an endorsement of the president's agenda.

"We don't believe that," Sullivan said. "We've stated clearly from the get-go that our visit to the White House is not political. Nobody's choosing a side. Nobody's taking a stand. We are simply honoring our championship and the accomplishments of this group of players over this last season, these last two seasons."

Sullivan was also asked if he would have a problem with any of his players kneeling during the national anthem.

"I would not," Sullivan said. "As we've stated all along, we understand the circumstance surrounding this visit. We're very respectful of anyone's right to protest or demonstrate as they see fit."

The Penguins did not make any players available for comment. Last year, Crosby and center Matt Cullen gave remarks after the team met Obama.

The most plainly political comment Trump made came when he introduced Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle as a great friend and a great negotiator.

"If you want to get involved in negotiating NAFTA, I like it," Trump said. "We're renegotiating NAFTA, Ron. Of course, he may not like that because maybe he's on the other side. That's what's happening. That's why it's so hard to re-do these trade deals. You're not on the other side of NAFTA, Ron, are you?"

"I am not," Burkle said.

Other Trump remarks could have been deemed partisan or political with a degree of reading between the lines.

In praising the team's fans, Trump might have made a veiled reference to his victory over Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania last November.

"Great fans. Great state. Great place," Trump said.

In praising the charity efforts of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Trump complimented the team's patriotism.

"Just as much as your five Stanley Cup wins, your generosity has shown the true character of this incredible organization," Trump said. "You are true, true champions and incredible patriots."

Watch the entire event:

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.