American ice hockey team the Pittsburgh Penguins sparked online backlash this week after a social media staffer photoshopped face masks onto fans in a photo taken during the side’s first home game in front of spectators since last March.
“We just had to say this again … thanks for the continued support, Penguins fans,” the team’s official Twitter account posted alongside an image showing all fans properly wearing face coverings. “We can’t wait to see you tomorrow night.”
The NHL franchise had returned to PPG Paints Arena to face the Philadelphia Flyers en route to a 5-2 win. Just 2800 people were allowed inside to watch the action and a zero-tolerance mask policy was in place.
It was the Penguins’ first home game in front of fans since March 2, 2020, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But some eagle-eyed Twitter users noticed something was amiss. In the original photo, taken by Jeanine Leech of Getty Images, a female fan wearing her mask incorrectly is seen in the top-right corner, while two others didn’t have their faces properly covered.
The woman’s mask was down below her mouth, while another man’s mask wasn’t covering his nose.
One critic quickly called out the seemingly doctored image as “terrible BS” from the team.
“Either enforce the rules or don’t, but don’t lie to us either,” the tweet read. “P*** poor jobs Pens.”
Another critic admitted “growing pains” with the mask policy was expected considering it was the first home game with spectators — but still said the team should “do better”.
Meanwhile, another person joked that the team’s account appeared to be operated by an “actual penguin”.
“Photoshop is hard with no fingers,” the reply read.
In a statement to The New York Post, the team acknowledged that a social media staffer sent out the “altered” photo and has since been reprimanded.
“We are excited to have our fans back to PPG Paints Arena, and following the advice of medical professionals, we are taking all precautions to enforce the use of masks to keep our fans safe,” the statement read.
“We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy, and our arena staff having roving teams to enforce during home games.”
The team said the “perhaps well-intended” staffer, however, should not have manipulated the wide crowd photo of “a few fans” who weren’t following the rules.
“Our social media team should never send out altered photos to our fan base,” the statement continued. “This is a violation of our social media and safety policy, and this staffer has been disciplined.”
Fans were allowed back into the arena after Governor Tom Wolf raised capacity at indoor venues to 15 per cent, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“We’re grateful for the loyalty that our fans showed during this difficult time,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
“We feel like we have some of the most loyal fans in sports. These guys have been so supportive of our players over the years. I know the players are appreciative of that.”
This story first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission
The second period start was pushed back nearly eight hours to 9pm local time and didn’t get underway until midnight on the east coast of the United States.
A special rink was assembled on the 18th hole of a lakeside golf course to create the unique atmosphere with mountains in the background and boaters watching on the water a short walk away but no spectators on site due to COVID-19.
Images of the scene left the sporting world in awe.
The match-up was the first of a double-header that concludes on Monday (AEDT) with the Boston Bruins facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’ve done more than 30 outdoor games. This has been the most difficult weather circumstance we’ve had and it’s a beautiful day,” said Bettman.
“We knew unabated sunshine was a problem.” Bettman said players were divided over returning to play as planned or waiting. “You’ve got to do the prudent thing,” he said. “We’re all disappointed. You can’t have success if you don’t risk failure.” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, a Swedish left winger, said Colorado was ready to keep going but it was probably wiser to wait and resume under the lights.
“That first period was the way it was but some places were slushy,” he said. “We were ready to go out. We wanted to go out, but it’s probably for the best.
“We’ll take it in stride and try to pick up where we left off. It’ll be one to remember for sure.” Colorado played in “throwback” uniforms featuring the logo of the Quebec Nordiques, the identity of the club before it moved from Canada to Denver in 1995.
Two outdoor games originally planned for 2021 were scrapped because of the pandemic. St. Louis was to have played Minnesota at Target Field baseball park in Minneapolis on January 1 and the Carolina Hurricanes were to have hosted a game at a college football stadium on Sunday.
She’s part of one of America’s richest families – now Jessica Pegula has guaranteed a $525,000 payday of her own and a shot at glory with her 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 upset win over fifth seed Elina Svitolina.
Pegula’s one and only prior meeting with the world No.5, coming in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, ended in a straight sets defeat, but a month and change later and it was Pegula who powered her way to victory.
Having never previously made it to the fourth round of a grand slam, the 26-year-old and world No.61 will now make her bid for a debut appearance in a slam semi-final – although it’ll be a different ‘bid’ of sorts to that her family put in for NFL franchise the Buffalo Bills.
Pegula’s father Terry is a billionaire businessman who made his money in the fracking business before selling the bulk of his oil and gas company East Resources for more than $5 billion AUD.
Terry founded the company in 1983 with a loan of $7500 before turning it into the mouthwatering sum above – a meteoric rise Jessica is emulating in a tennis sense at Melbourne Park this month.
In 2014, Terry outbid rival suitors Donald Trump and Bon Jovi to purchase NFL franchise the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion USD – three years after he secured the Buffalo Sabres for $189 million USD.
The unseeded Pegula is rapidly gaining the attention of the tennis world with her barnstorming run to the quarterfinals, during which she has taken out two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, former US Open champion Sam Stosur and former world No.10 Kristina Mladenovic before her win over Svitolina.
Pegula, who had never had a win over a top-10 player before the Australian Open, considered giving up tennis after a harrowing run with knee and hip injuries, with the latter forcing her to spend a year-and-a-half in recovery.
In her first ever main draw berth at the Australian Open, Pegula is finally realising her potential in a warning sign to the rest of the tour.
Pegula’s win means that world number one and local hope Ash Barty will have to face no top 10 seeds en route to the final.
With the top-10 monkey off her back, however, Pegula looms as a significant obstacle for Barty, who in 2020 lost to an American outsider in the semi-finals.