“This is going crazy,” Mike Eruzione said in a telephone interview. “I shake my head, it’s all I can say.”
Introducing the team, Trump called the game “one of the best moments in the history of the sport.” The men took the stage, and some of the players wore the red baseball caps “Keep America Great” from the president’s firm.
Kelly Brooks, the daughter of the late hockey head coach Herb Brooks, wiped her tears when she was presented at the rally. She said her father “would be proud to be here with you all and, in my personal opinion, he would have been a Trump fan.”
Eruzione also delivered brief comments at the demonstration, saying it was a “great honor” to be invited by the President.
“Just tell them: I’m a good athlete and I’m a good golfer?” Trump asked as Eruzione left the podium.
“Yes, sir,” Eruzione replied. “What you say.”
But the team was quickly accused of politicizing what many thought should have been a celebration of a historic sporting achievement.
Eruzione told CNN on Thursday that he was sad about the negative comments he and his teammates received online.
“The more I say, it will not please either party,” Eruzione said. “I better let him go.”
However, Trump’s campaign came out in his defense, claiming that the team is just another victim of modern political “cancellation culture,” a term intended to describe attempts to exclude public figures through intense online criticism.
“The 1980 Olympic hockey team reminds us of a time when, as a nation, we come together to defeat communism. It is a shame that today’s liberals are so intolerant of other political views that threaten to cancel our great heroes. sports of our history “. Trump’s campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to CNN.
Other presidents have also celebrated the team. When they returned home after defeating Finland for the gold medal, just two days after the overthrow of the Soviets, the players met with President Jimmy Carter at the White House, “a great honor regardless of their game,” according to forward Buzz Schneider.
While last Friday’s event in Las Vegas was a campaign rally, there have been multiple instances of tension during Trump’s time in office around official White House events involving athletes, and this is not the first Once athletes have been criticized for appearing to support Trump while they are honored for his sporting achievements.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with more context on the official White House events that involve athletes during Trump’s presidency.
Maegan Vázquez of CNN contributed to this report.