Caps’ Charitable Endeavors Should Be Applauded, Not Shamed

Posted June 16, 2018

The Stanley Cup visited Fort Dupont (via the Caps)

Having spent the last nine seasons covering the Washington Capitals and Monumental Sports Foundation’s charitable endeavors, I found Petula Dvorak’s column in The Washington Post, “Stanley Cup photo ops aren’t enough, Caps. Cough up some money for kids of color.” to be unfair and highly illogical.

First, the Caps don’t owe anything to anyone, except for putting on a good show for their fans – who have been extremely delighted lately. The argument that anyone is somehow obligated to ‘cough up cash’ to someone else… let’s just say that’s one of the most polarizing ideas in history and wars have been fought over it. Any time you start with that premise, pragmatic thinkers already have their counter arguments ready.

That said, the Capitals already do ‘cough up cash’ at Fort Dupont, and even swung by on Friday with the Stanley Cup. But donating some money is not all they do for Fort Dupont or the Cannons. Maybe they’d do even more if they weren’t busy fighting cancer, helping disabled veterans, holding food drives, Movember, pet adoptionYou Can Play, Pride night, Hockey Is for Everyone month, building roller rinks, buying Christmas gifts for children from poor families, and reaching out to folks that most people wouldn’t think to associate with hockey. I’ve personally spent countless hours documenting the Caps raising money for these and other charities and am floored that anyone would argue that they’re not doing enough.

But that’s besides the point. In her column, Dvorak takes one line from a Monumental Sports press release that says “Through Teammates for Kids, the Capitals have donated more than $200,000 to the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Program since 2003.” She then divides that number to conclude they donate a measly $13,000 a year to Fort Dupont (and little else), which in her mind is insufficient because some of the families she knows spend $20,000 on their kid’s hockey.

Yes, playing hockey is expensive, particularly in this area where there are relatively few rinks compared to places up north. For that reason, there are countless children in this region who can’t easily play ice hockey and don’t get any contributions from professional sports teams. Plus, my local rink certainly isn’t getting $25 million from the city like Fort Dupont.

Missing from Dvorak’s article is any comment from anyone at Monumental. I’m guessing this is because Ted Leonsis has been too busy lately to answer questions from a columnist who is out to shame him for not doing more for one of countless charitable initiatives. Dvorak did, however, speak with William G. Douglas, who writes the blog, the Color of Hockey. Douglas didn’t agree with her. He follows these programs more than most folks and praises the Caps’ efforts in the city.

Now, here’s Dvorak’s big comparison to prove how cheap the Caps have been:

The cruelest part of this equation sits right across that parking lot. There is the gleaming, nearly $18 million Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a facility that was part of the Nationals Park lease with the city. It brought baseball to a neighborhood that had not had it in years, nurturing future players and building a fan base among African Americans who have largely abandoned the sport.

Oh Caps, you selfish bastards. How dare you not build an $18 million hockey rink. I mean, have you done anything at all? [Note: Click on that link and you’ll see what Monumental is doing in Southeast Washington. Oh, sorry, they’re still not paying $20 grand a kid for their hockey so maybe there’s still a long way to go before they rise to Dvorak’s challenge.]

I’ll take a step back here and acknowledge that I do want hockey to be more affordable, and I want there to be more rinks, particularly within the Washington D.C. boundaries. I want kids to play even if they can’t afford it (note – that’s any kid, not just ‘kids of color’ who Dvorak associates with ‘poor’). How do we accomplish all of this? Though there’s evidence that it’s already happening (hockey is more available in this region now than ever before), I know that shaming the Washington Capitals for not forking over even more money isn’t a sustainable approach. Maybe the Caps will do more in the future, but it won’t be because of columnists who unfairly criticize their prior contributions.

As a bit of a grinder in my own beer league, I’ll end this with a cheap shot myself: Dvorak thought Devante Smith-Pelly was the only black player on the Caps. That’s a credibility-killer right there.

To Many, Smith-Pelly Represents More Than Just a Caps Championship

The History of Black Washington Capitals

John Carlson, Fans Volunteer at Fort Dupont, Talk Country Music