Jets captain Wheeler takes stand against Trump

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EDMONTON — He isn’t taking a knee. But Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler – never one to shy away from an on-ice battle — is taking a stand against U.S. President Donald Trump through social media.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/09/2017 (1889 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EDMONTON — He isn’t taking a knee. But Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler – never one to shy away from an on-ice battle — is taking a stand against U.S. President Donald Trump through social media.

In the process, the Minnesota native appears to have gone where no other pro hockey player has publicly ventured to date.

Wheeler, who uses the handle @BiggieFunke, fired off a pair of short, pointed Twitter messages this weekend as part of an ongoing controversy between Trump and a growing chorus of other pro athletes.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Blake Wheeler's comments criticizing U.S. President Donald have been mostly well-received by social media.

“It’s the First Amendment to our Constitution. The First one!!” Wheeler said in his first Tweet.

“Regardless of how it makes you feel individually, these are literally the principles the US was founded on. Come on, Mr. President,” he typed moments later.

Wheeler didn’t make the trip to Edmonton for Saturday night’s exhibition game, and he and his teammates were off on Sunday. The first opportunity to speak to the matter and expand on his comments will come this morning.

Trump has come under fire for comments he made at a rally in Alabama on Friday, where he suggested National Football League players who protests during the national anthem should be “fired.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b— off the field right now. He is fired,” Trump said.

Wheeler’s comments appear to be mostly well-received through social media. As of Sunday evening, they had been “liked” more than 14,000 times and re-tweeted by other users more than 3,000 times. There were also more than 500 comments from other Twitter users, with the majority being supportive of his position.

“I couldn’t agree more! Guess I have a new NHLer to root for. Thank you for speaking up,” said one user.

“Good for you to stand up for what is right regardless of the backlash you may receive. Proud to have you as Captain of our Jets!” wrote another.

Not everyone was on his side.

“Stick to hockey! Stay out of politics!” reads one of the few dozen negative replies, all carrying a similar theme to them.

Trump’s comments triggered an immediate backlash on a number of fronts. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called them “divisive” in a statement, while the player’s association went even further in their reaction.

“We will never back down,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith tweeted early Saturday morning. “We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

Trump, as he is prone to do, carried the matter over to Twitter. On Saturday morning, he took aim at Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors by “uninviting” him to the White House for waffling on his invitation.

A slew of basketball players then jumped into the fray, with Lebron James calling the president a “bum” among other things.

Wheeler then weighed in, answering a question many had posed about whether a hockey player might ever enter the fray. It remains to be seen if others will now follow suit.

It also raises questions about whether Wheeler might opt to go beyond his Twitter comments and protest during the anthem by sitting it out, as athletes in several other sports have done including a huge wave during Sunday’s round of NFL games.

The Jets are currently in a stretch where they are playing eight straight games against Canadian teams through the end of the pre-season and start of the regular-season. The first opportunity to hear the U.S. anthem comes on Oct. 14 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins came under heavy criticism Sunday after issuing a statement saying they would, as reigning Stanley Cup champions, visit Trump at the White House. Trump quickly responded on Twitter, praising them for being a “great team.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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