The issue of unity: NHL
The issue of unity: NHLPublished October 2, 2017
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made his thoughts on protests during national anthems well known in May during a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference, where he stated that while he encouraged players to be involved in political and social causes, games should be a block of time that is viewed as “apolitical.”
He also said that champions visiting the White House is “about respecting the institution. It’s not about what your politics are and who’s in the White House.”
As the sports world began to respond to President Donald Trump’s comments from Sept. 22, the NHL stood pat, as nothing about Bettman’s position changed.
After news broke on Sept. 23 that the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to visit the White House had been rescinded, however, the Pittsburgh Penguins released a statement the next morning saying the team had accepted an offer to visit the White House. The team had been swamped by media inquiries after the Warriors news, and with a team practice wrapping up and players being made available to media soon after 11 a.m., it looked to pre-empt any questions on the topic, which it discussed with the NHL prior.
The team’s statement said the team respected the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House — which it had visited after previous championships during the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama — as well as the institution of the Office of the President. The statement also noted that “any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways” and that the team “respect(s) the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.”
While this was a position that CEO David Morehouse — previously a member of the Clinton administration, and who also worked on the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry — publicly stated after the team’s Stanley Cup victory in June, the re-release of this information was quickly shared on Twitter by Trump.
The NHL soon after pondered if it should release any statements as well, and Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and others at the league office discussed the topic, according to league sources. It chose not to.
Last Monday, Bettman spoke to The Associated Press, saying that he respects players’ views on political and social issues, and that social issues “are a matter of individual belief and individual choice.”
On Tuesday, the league had a scheduled board of governors meeting in New York, where Bettman started the meeting with the topic.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr sent a memo to players saying the union would support any player who peacefully protested.
To date, no NHL player has protested during a national anthem. The NHL would not take any action against any player that chose to protest, league sources said. The NHL regular season begins Wednesday.
Leagues and Governing Bodies
For NFL, which way forward?
The issue of unity: NBA
The issue of unity: MLB
The issue of unity: MLS
The issue of unity: NHL
The issue of unity: WNBA
The issue of unity: USOC
The issue of unity: NASCAR
The issue of unity: Fans
First Look podcast: Division and unity
NASCAR asking official sponsors for help in finding new rides for Wallace, Patrick
For MLB, a murderers’ row of playoff teams
Handler to exit CMO post at MLS, eyes next big challenge
Marketing and Sponsorship
Labor and Agents
Fate of CBA hinges on economic issues
Foley confident in revenue potential of Golden Knights
NHL team execs, owners in the spotlight
NHL media partners to watch
Browning eager to harness passion of NHL fans
NHL’s Lehanski shifts focus to technology
Execs leading the NHL's big initiatives
Big events on tap for Kelleher at USA Hockey
Sponsors have a lot riding on NHL season
Judge presides over class-action suit
McDavid growing into standout role
2 hockey players poised for big role, big stage in coming season
Key voices for NHL players
NHL ad spending