Thursday, February 21, 2019

Washington Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly going against the grain of NHL.

June 25, 2018 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( The Washington Capitals have finally done it. They have won the 2018 Stanley Cup Final over the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who had a storybook first season in the NHL. Washington Capital fans have had a lot of disappointing postseasons recently dispute a lot of regular season successes. This postseason was the Capitals 28th playoff appearance. It’s the most playoff appearances for a team at the time of their first title across the four major sports of the NHL, NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball.

The star and face of the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin, was one of the most accomplished athletes in team sports to never win a championship until now. The Capitals will now have the opportunity to enjoy the Stanley Cup and all the benefits that come with being champions of a professional sport. For decades, that has meant a trip to the White House and trip to meet with the U.S. president but there has already been a Washington Capitals player to speak out against seeing Donald Trump, which is surprising in the NHL.

Devante Smith-Pelly plays Right Wing for the Washington Capitals. He isn’t one of the top players of the team but he stepped up for the Capitals during the playoffs. He scored 7 goals in 75 regular-season games but increased his production to 7 goals in 24 playoff games in helping the Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship. Smith-Pelly is rare in the NHL as a black NHL player in a league that is overwhemingly and unsurprisingly white. It was surprising to hear Smith-Pelly’s comments about going to the White House as a Stanley Cup champion.

Prior to the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup, Smith-Pelly said he would decline the potential White House invitation and had some strong words for Donald Trump. Smith-Pelly said, “The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist. Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with. It hasn’t come up here, but I think I already have my mind made up.”

Sports teams having the opportunity to visit the White House following winning a championship has become a significant subject lately. The White House and Donald Trump canceled the Philadelphia Eagles visit to the White House earlier this month. There is a lot of confusion about the motive of the cancellation as it has been framed as the Eagles’ visit being canceled due to Trump “insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem”. Devante Smith-Pelly is joining black athletes like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry in declining a visit as a winner of a professional team championship. Trump also said he wouldn’t invite NBA champions to White House. NBA players and coaches have been very critical and vocal about Donald Trump but Smith-Pelly’s comments about Trump are notable as a hockey player.

Although not every black athlete in America does not hold disdain for Donald Trump, the majority of black people in America do not have favorable opinions of Trump. Predominantly black sports leagues like the NBA and the NFL will likely have issues with the annual tradition of visiting the U.S. president following a championship during the Donald Trump presidency. There will not be the same issue for the NHL and the NHL doesn’t hide the fact that it is not the most diverse sport in terms of racial diversity.

The NHL chose controversial musician Kid Rock as its All-Star game performer. Kid Rock has been a Trump supporter and faced criticism for his continued adoration of the Confederate flag. There have been instances of NHL fans displaying horrific behavior to black NHL players including Devante Smith-Pelly receiving racist taunts while playing in Chicago. Smith-Pelly is definitely rare in the NHL for multiple reasons.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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