Capitals, minus Devante Smith-Pelly, open to possible White House visit

During the Washington Capitals’ breakdown day Wednesday, most players expressed an openness toward the prospect of a White House visit, should President Trump invite the team.

Six days after winning their first Stanley Cup Final in team history, players still deliberated over the prospect, though Trump has yet to officially extend an invitation to the Capitals. Players were agreeable toward the opportunity, except right winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who had previously implied he would not want to go.

“I would like to go there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think the building is pretty cool and everything. I’m not going to get into this discussion that a lot of the other athletes have been talking about. I think the building is pretty cool and I think it’s an honor if the President invites you.”

“Yeah, I’m looking forward,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I can’t wait. I never been there. I want to take pictures around it. It will be fun.”

Smith-Pelly, who is black, told Canada’s Postmedia on June 6 that “the things that [Trump] spews are straight-up racist and sexist. … 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.”

Asked Wednesday about his viewpoint, he said it hasn’t changed.

“I haven’t thought about it more than that,” Smith-Pelly said. “I stand by what I said and that’s really all there is to it.”

Smith-Pelly, who is 25 years old and Canadian, doesn’t think his stance will cause friction among players who are receptive to a visit.

“Everyone, they can do whatever they want, you know what I mean?” Smith-Pelly said. “When I said what I said no one in the room said, ‘Hey, well maybe you should do this or maybe you should do that.’ Everyone can do whatever they want. I’ll still love Ovi if he goes. I’ll still love all the other guys if they go.”

While players celebrated at Cafe Milano in Georgetown on June 9, Philip Pritchard, the handler of the Stanley Cup, tweeted a photo Ovechkin and the Cup, posing with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

The 2017 WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx didn’t receive an invitation, so last month the squad visited Payne Elementary School in Southeast D.C. instead, giving shoes to kids. Trump withdrew an invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles over national anthem protests. Criticism from stars on the Golden State Warriors, the 2017 and 2018 NBA champions, caused Trump to uninvite the team in 2017 and not reach out to Warriors this year.

Other players, such as right winger Brett Connolly, declined to comment on the subject, while left winger Jakub Vrana, in his first full year with the Capitals, is leaving the choice to more veteran players.

“Honestly, there’s other guys who decide this,” the 22-year-old Czech said. “I was just kind of rolling with the group. Wherever we go, we go, I go.”

Concrete plans haven’t been formed regarding a visit, and goalkeeper Braden Holtby said a group decision will be made after a discussion. But the predominant sentiment points toward accepting an invitation.

“I think for sure we would go,” center Jay Beagle said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t. If the President invites you to the White House, you go, right? That’s the way I look at it. … Obviously, it’ll be up to the team, but I’ll go. I’m in.”

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