In a stern voice that remained calm and stopped just short of anger, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said his organization's decision to visit the White House on Oct. 10 is not a political statement, despite perception to the contrary.

“The reality is it's just the opposite,” Sullivan said Wednesday morning at PPG Paints Arena after the team's morning skate. “We haven't taken any stance.”

His remarks gave the impression Penguins players will not become a part of the national anthem protests that have spread through professional sports.

“The Penguins as an organization and our players have chosen not to use this platform to take a stance,” Sullivan said, “and so there appears to be a perception that we have.

“And it's wrong.”

Sullivan also defended Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who was called out this week by many on social media and, specifically, Nova Scotia poet laureate and activist El Jones, who told Metro Halifax she hopes Crosby gets the Penguins to decline the invitation.

“It is an act of moral cowardice,” Jones said. “I think that he can still fix this and maybe with pressure he will.

“I hope that he sees this and realizes how greatly disappointing this is to Canadians and particularly to black Canadians. He has a chance to reconsider. I'm not saying he's a terrible person, but he made a terrible choice.”

Crosby, a native of Nova Scotia, was not available for comment before the Penguins' preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.