Connolly won't go to the White House: 'Don't think it's the right thing to do'
Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly said last summer he would skip the team's White House visit if they were invited and confirmed Tuesday he is sticking by that vow.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and Connolly said he will skip the visit in support of teammate Devante Smith-Pelly.
“I respectfully decline,” Connolly told The Washington Post. “That’s all I’ll say about it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s obviously a big deal, and it gains a lot of attention. I’ve been in full support of an old teammate that I’m really good friends with who I agreed with and a guy who will be back here, I’m sure, at the end of the year. That’s all I’ll say.”
Smith-Pelly, who first said he would not attend the White House visit last June, was waived by the Capitals ahead of the trade deadline and is currently with the team's AHL affiliate in Hershey.
"The things that he (Trump) spews are straight-up racist and sexist," Smith-Pelly told Postmedia days after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. "Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross … It hasn’t come up here, but I think I already have my mind made up.”
The NBA's Golden State Warriors and NFL's Philadelphia Eagles did not visit Trump at the White House after winning championships.
Forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson all confirmed Tuesday that they would be in attendance.
“It will be fun. It’s exciting, I think, and every time you get an invitation from the president and being at the White House, it’s going to be a great experience," Backstrom said. "I feel like it’s always up to whoever wants to go, but we got the invitation, and it’s been a tradition, I think, for many years. We’re not going to mix politics with sports. It’s because we won last year; that’s why we’re there. Yeah, it’ll be a cool experience, I think.”
“It’s another chance to recognize the special run that we had last year," Wilson added. “Any time the group gets together and gets to see the Cup and be around it, it is awesome. We’ll take it in stride and see where it goes here and look forward to celebrating that one whenever we can.”
Visiting the White House has been an NHL tradition for the Stanley Cup champions since 1991, when the Pittsburgh Penguins were invited by President George H.W. Bush.