The OilersRig is, as the URL states, an Edmonton Oilers site but what I’m presenting to you my dear reader is something that goes beyond just one franchise in the NHL.
As we all know the defending Stanley Cup champs in the form of the Pittsburgh Penguins will be heading to the White House to visit President Donald Trump this week, a decision that’s faced tremendous backlash that shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
Trump in the past few weeks has taken aim at Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who’ve taken a knee during the US anthem to protest police brutality and inequality towards black people in America and has helped to get people on his side by screaming that they are disrespecting the flag by kneeling and fans should demand these “SOBs” be removed from the field and fired by their owners.
With the NHL and every other major hockey body on this continent coming out with Declaration of Hockey Principals there’s one point in it that stands out to me, “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. Simply put hockey is for everyone”.
It’s beyond disappointing to see a franchise in this current climate call going to the White House when the person in charge has basically insulted everyone that these principals will attempt (if they will actually do anything we’ll have to see) to make the game safe for.
This is a president that has suggested there were “very good people” among people marching and carrying symbols of Nazis and the Confederacy in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This is a president who suggested in the past that you can do whatever you want and that when you’re rich, sexual assault is cool and wrote it off as locker room talk.
I’m at a loss to be able to recall a head of state in either Canada or the USA speak this way publicly, before the election of Trump.
I can’t make Mario Lemeiux, Ron Burkle, CEO David Moorehouse, Sidney Crosby or any other member of the Penguins not go. They can have their view points but they should know that this decision has faced opposition.
Other players from around the league for the most part have been silent on the protest with a few exceptions. Blake Wheeler, Jacob Trouba and Matt Hendricks of the Winnipeg Jets and Josh Ho-Sang of the New York Islanders spoke out against the comments of the president.
Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks stated yesterday that he may take a knee before the US anthem at games this season; JT Brown of the Tampa Bay Lightning has floated the idea about possibly taking a knee.
To other white NHLers except Wheeler, Hendricks and Trouba: please don’t let black players like Ho-Sang, Brown and Ward be the only voices to show support in bringing attention to black inequality and police brutality in America. The growth of these peaceful protests in the WNBA, NBA, NFL and MLB has been helped by having allies from other races. To coaches and management, please do not threaten to bench players if they sit or kneel, this is not about the flag or the military and it never has been.
From Day 1 this protest has been about the fact that in 2017 black people are still being followed in upscale stores, stopped by the authorities because they are driving nice cars, and are beaten or murdered simply because being dark scares ignorant people.
As a black person I’ve faced some of these situations first hand and believe me when I say inequality is still incredibly strong in North America if you’re a person of colour.
The NHL and it’s franchises have work to do, but the Penguins taking a stand, even a small one by skipping the White House this year would have gone a long way instead basically saying “not our problem”.