The Pittsburgh Penguins tonight are playing their first home game since Saturday’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 people in what the Anti-Defamation League called the “deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.” The Penguins added a Star of David to their uniforms with the phrase “Stronger Than Hate” for tonight. And before the game began, they had an 11-second moment of silence for the victims along with an especially emotional performance of the national anthem.
The ceremony was the proper amount of restrained, even if it did hit that unearned optimistic tone that all pregame tragedy-related ceremonies do. But besides the fact that everything the Penguins are doing to honor the victims feels completely insincere given that they pal around with a president who’s actively encouraged anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and whose only solution to gun violence is “more guns,” there also was a pretty colossal miscalculation in the pregame ceremony itself by whomever allowed this “Blue Lives Matter” flag to receive prominent placement at the ceremonial puck drop.
For those who don’t know, “Blue Lives Matter” is an explicit reaction by law enforcement to the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to end racial prejudice in policing. It’s a rallying cry used by some of the most empowered workers in America as propaganda against vulnerable people who are simply asking not to be killed or abused by state actors, and its endorsement by the Penguins is a gross slap in the face to some of their most marginalized fans.
There are ways to honor the heroic first responders at the Tree of Life synagogue without emphasizing a rhetorical tool used to preserve the fucked up status quo. And while I’d love to give the Penguins some benefit of the doubt here, this franchise’s recent history tells us that they know exactly what they’re doing.