For many years, the so-called miracle on ice was a point of pride for people in the United States.
A group of amateur college hockey players faced off against the Soviet Union's Red Army champions in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
The young amateurs emerged victorious on their way to a gold medal. The players became media stars and national heroes overnight.
But on the 40th anniversary of their victory, that star was tarnished. President Donald Trump invited the team to appear on stage with him at his Las Vegas MAGA rally just to commemorate the event—not as a political endorsement.
The team agreed under those terms. But as the players approached the stage, they were handed a red hat. The first person called to appear on the stage was the 1980 team captain Mike Eruzione who made a few remarks before he was joined by other members of the team.
You can see the players being called on stage in the below video.
Several players can be seen carrying the hats they were given as they came on stage, but most automatically put them on.
Eruzione now says that was a mistake.
The hats bore Trump's 2020 campaign slogan: Keep America Great. The KAG hats replaced the MAGA ones, but most supporters still sport the original slogan.
The perception of an endorsement of Trump by the team drew immediate backlash.
@MERUZIONE From “greatest upset” to just greatly upset. What a shame to forever tarnish one of the greatest moments… https://t.co/8vtAwtWw7O— PhillyMikey76 (@PhillyMikey76)1582431210.0
@MERUZIONE For 40 years I held this team in the highest esteem. Met you 6 months after the Olympics. Our talk convi… https://t.co/Csxg3piIiF— Georgia Cavanaugh (@Georgia Cavanaugh)1582467435.0
Eruzione addressed that public response in an interview with The Washington Post.
The Olympic captain asked one interviewer:
"You going to light into me, too? We're getting killed!"
To The Post, Eruzione said:
"If we knew we were going to piss off this many people, we probably would not have put the hats on. That's the big question here. A lot of the stuff I got was, 'You guys said it's not political, but when you put the hats on, you made it political'."
The team had taken photos with the sitting President for the occasion of the 40th anniversary, but Eruzione said Trump invited them to join him onstage.
"What are you going to say? To us it was, 'Sure'."
During his Post interview Eruzione pulled up his Twitter account to read some of the feedback:
"'Did they have to wear those hats?… A shame on all of you for wearing those divisive, racist hats.… 40 years ago, you brought joy, but tonight it's deep sadness'."
@MERUZIONE Words cannot express how disappointed I am in you, for having the team put on those red hats. Team was a… https://t.co/5idigu7ChB— HLR (@HLR)1582475270.0
@MERUZIONE @1980MiracleTeam I got goosebumps and a tear in my eye visiting the 1980 rink in Placid this week with m… https://t.co/SJ6ZvB2nvF— Doug Roberts (@Doug Roberts)1582429080.0
@MERUZIONE @1980MiracleTeam I thought about buying your sweater and then I saw you in that red hat. I'm crushed.— Evan Curtis (@Evan Curtis)1582423418.0
@MERUZIONE You ruined a lot of goodwill by appearing at a political rally for President Trump on the 40th anniversa… https://t.co/uXXm4R7PAr— Steven Hamburg (@Steven Hamburg)1582426935.0
@MERUZIONE @1980MiracleTeam This victory and team were ruined today 💔Russia is winning, imagine the maga pics that… https://t.co/fsa9a7MmAU— Shelly MK (@Shelly MK)1582428166.0
@MERUZIONE @1980MiracleTeam That moment you destroyed yesterday was all of America's moment, it's wasn't yours to p… https://t.co/WSukSfUT8I— 🇺🇸 Liddle' 🇺🇸 (@🇺🇸 Liddle' 🇺🇸)1582474947.0
"I told my wife, 'People think we are a disgrace."