Sports | October 11, 2017 9:52 am

How Donald Trump Tried to Politicize the Pittsburgh Penguins and Failed

At least for hockey fans in the city of Pittsburgh it doesn't matter, argues longtime Pens fan Alex Kirshner.

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup Trophy after they defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 to win the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Haranguing the sports world seems to be high up on President Trump’s to-do list of late, but he hasn’t been able to ruffle too many feathers in regards to the hockey world.

That’s because Stanley Cup winners the Pittsburgh Penguins made a few million headlines less than the NFL or Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry did by saying they’d show up at the White House and be honored by the president. (The visit took place this past Tuesday, Oct. 10.)

As SB Nation‘s Alex Kirshner, a longtime Pens fan, writes “rooting for the Penguins has always been easy … [but] now, for the first time, caring about this team is a political choice.” And that’s because Trump’s attempted to make the team into a political “prop,” which aligns with his view that professional athletes should stand for the national anthem. That’s ultimately what their visit to the White House will be remembered for.

That said, as Kirshner argues, the politicization of the Pens has been all but lost on Pittsburghers. “The city doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about NFL teams that aren’t the Steelers or a top AFC competitor. It spends almost no time on the NBA, which Pittsburghers regard as a more boring league than the old Big East. That Trump has chosen the Penguins to pit against the Warriors has largely not registered.”

And that’s sort of surprising, given the political split in the Pittsburgh area. In the city itself, notes Kirshner, 75 percent of votes went to Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. But anywhere outside of the city, it’s easy to find unabashed support for the president. (As we recently noted, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base is nearly a 50-50 red-blue split, so you can deduce that the Pens’ fan-politics split is probably similar, if not on a smaller scale.)

While the Pens’ coach and players claim they have taken no political stance in making the trip, as Kirshner argues, that will all fly out the window as soon as they step foot in the White House.