A year after Halifax decided to consider naming a street after Sidney Crosby, the hockey superstar suddenly finds himself embroiled in an ugly political mess that has some residents openly musing about rescinding the offer.
It’s no secret the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has faced widespread criticism on social media for his decision to support the team’s upcoming visit to the White House, but disapproval has also percolated to the surface in his hometown, where Crosby is typically accorded god-like status.
Soon after the Penguins accepted President Donald Trump’s invitation to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington, D.C. – Crosby called it “a great honour for us to be invited there” – some Haligonians were calling on him to reject the offer.
They asked Crosby to show unity with NFL players and others protesting Trump for criticizing the league’s players for refusing to stand during the national anthem.
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One of Halifax’s most outspoken social activists, El Jones, weighed in with a 900-word opinion piece that took the NHL star to task for failing to fall into line with other athletes.
Jones, Halifax’s former poet laureate, noted that Crosby said there was “little to no discussion” in the locker room about the decision to visit the White House.
“That players in the overwhelmingly white NHL … were able to have ‘no discussion’ about this issue while black athletes in other leagues faced the president’s harshest language says a great deal about white privilege,” Jones wrote for Vice News.
“Crosby’s choice not to side with black athletes should not be seen as representing the absence of racism in Canada. It is instead the exact face of ‘polite’ Canadian racism … This is what racism looks like in Canada, where everything is so comfortable (for white people) and nobody can understand why those protesters have to be so rude about it.”
Jones suggested Crosby is no stranger to racism because the suburb in which he grew up, Cole Harbour, had race riots at the local high school in the 1990s and again in 2008.
In the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Atlantic Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper, an editorial cartoon on Monday depicted Crosby meeting Trump in the Oval Office, with the hockey player saying, “I’m Sid the Kid,’ and Trump replying, “I’m Donald the Baby.”
The newspaper also carried an opinion piece from two local professors who offered six reasons for Crosby to stay home. The No. 1 reason? “You have already been there.”
The fifth reason was more pointed: “Remember your roots. You are from Cole Harbour, the flashpoint of black and white race relations in Canada for the past 30 years. The parallels between your hometown and the U.S. today are too obvious to ignore.”
A column in the city’s alternative weekly, The Coast, compared Crosby to a notably apolitical singer: “The Taylor Swift of hockey has no problem joining his Stanley Cup-winning teammates in Washington.”
WATCH: Pittsburgh Penguins player reacts to NFL anthem demonstrations
On Twitter, there appeared to be little support for Crosby’s position – even in tweets sent from the Halifax area, where regional council unanimously voted last year to consider renaming a suburban street after Crosby.
“Thank you Sidney Crosby for the helpful reminder of why it’s a bad idea to name streets and buildings for people prematurely,” said one resident. Another followed up with: “Find it difficult to support naming a street after Sidney Crosby after his decision to visit Trump.”
And then there was this: “Sidney Crosby is a bum just like Trump if he goes to the White House…. better stay there too.”
Crosby still has plenty of supporters online and elsewhere in Nova Scotia, though.
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“I think Sidney should do what he feels is best for him and the team,” said one tweet. “Our opinions shouldn’t matter.”
The Penguins visited the White House in 2009 and 2016 after winning the Stanley Cup.
One Twitter scribe suggested the practice should have nothing to do with who is in power: “It’s about the tradition and the landmark, not the idiot that is the occupant.”
On Facebook, Halifax resident Laura Patterson said Crosby can’t avoid politics.
“The Penguins don’t exist outside of current events, and the decision to visit or not visit the White House is politicized either way. The Penguins made the wrong choice … The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are left standing on the wrong side of history … I hope he reconsiders. Either way, he’ll be making a stand.”
Halifax-based classic rock radio station Q104 asked Twitter users the following question: “Should Sidney Crosby go to the White House?” The unscientific poll attracted 479 responses with 61 per cent saying no.