President Trump welcomed the 2016 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House Tuesday afternoon, calling the team, "true champions and incredible patriots," even though many of the players are not American-born.
The invitation comes as Mr. Trump feuds with the National Football League (NFL) over national anthem protests, and after he disinvited the NBA's Golden State Warriors when star player Stephen Curry indicated he wouldn't attend the White House championship celebration. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup this year for the second season in a row, with the help of 15 American-born players.
Although not the entire team attended the White House on Tuesday, none publicly declined the invitation for political reasons. Mr. Trump has praised the NHL team as patriotic, even as he takes down the NFL.
"By the way, everybody wanted to be here today," Mr. Trump said as soon as he took the stage, a not-so-subtle jab at the Golden State Warriors and Curry.
With the team on the stage, Mr. Trump half-joked with Penguins part-owner Ron Burkle that he could help re-negotiate the, a deal with the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Hours ahead of the Penguins' visit, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to again attack the NFL.
"Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!", Mr. Trump said on Twitter Tuesday morning ahead of the Penguins' visit.
Mr. Trump hosted the NFL's Patriots in April, although some players on the team ---- didn't attend.
Updates from earlier below:
3:32 p.m. Trump: You do damage, but that's called winning
The president praised the Penguins for clobbering the Rangers, saying they do damage, but that's a part of the process called winning.
"You're gonna' have a great season," Trump said.
The president said he hopes to see the team back next year.
3:31 p.m. Trump praises Pittsburgh Penguin Foundation
The president praised the work the Pittsburg Penguin Foundation has done, including work on concussions in minors. When it comes to the NFL, the president has bashed rules aimed at limiting players' concussions. Nonetheless, the president praised the NHL team's work in the community.
3:23 p.m. Trump invites Penguins part-owner to help on trade
Mr. Trump invited the Penguins part-owner Ron Burkle to help renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), if he wants.
3:21 p.m. Trump pays "warmest respects" to Californians affected by fires
The president, after inviting the Penguins on stage, recognized the people of California -- particularly in the Napa Valley -- whose homes have been ravaged by ongoing wildfires.
3:18 p.m. Penguins appear on stage
The Stanley cup arrived on stage, followed by the Penguins team, Mr. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
"By the way, everybody wanted to be here today," Mr. Trump said.