TORONTO – If President Trump invites the Washington Capitals around the corner to pose for photographs with the Stanley Cup, don’t expect full attendance.
Multiple members of the first D.C.-based pro championship team in 26 years have already decided they won’t go.
“Personally, I don’t think I’m going to go,” forward Brett Connolly, who is white and Canadian, said Wednesday at BioSteel Camp in Toronto. “There’s a few guys. It has nothing to do with politics.
“For me, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think there’ll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right and wrong. And we’ll leave it at that.”
Fellow forward and training partner Devante Smith-Pelly, who is black and Canadian, announced back in June, prior to the Capitals Cup-clinching game, that he would pass on such an invite. He called Trump’s words racist and sexist.
“I said what I said: I’m not going,” Smith-Pelly reiterated this week. “I’m kinda tired of talking about it, to be honest…. I made my decision.”
Going against the grain of protests in the NBA and NFL, the majority of the 2017 champion Pittsburgh Penguins did accept Trump’s invitation last October.
Captain Sidney Crosby maintained the decision was not a political one, yet Trump called the multinational team “incredible patriots.”
Trump announced he would not be inviting the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors prior to the conclusion of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“I think we’ll have the Caps. We’ll see. You know, my attitude is if they want to be here on the greatest place on Earth, I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them,” Trump said in early June.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis hosted a fundraiser for Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Several Capitals are already on record saying they would like to attend the White House. Captain Alex Ovechkin said he “can’t wait.”
Smith-Pelly explained there is no internal pressure from the Capitals office nor from his teammates either way.
“I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. They’re not like, ‘Maybe you should do it.’ Not that they don’t care, but they’re like, ‘Hey, do whatever you want,’ ” Smith-Pelly said.
“If some guys are like, ‘We wanna go because we wanna see the White House, cool.’ I’m not going to look at anyone differently because they want to see the White House. Me, personally, I don’t want to go.”