The Pittsburgh Penguins sparked an online backlash Wednesday after a social media staff member donned face masks on fans in a photo taken during the team’s first home game in front of spectators since last March.
“We just had to say this again … thanks for your continued support, Penguins fans.” the official Twitter account of the team published alongside an image showing all the fans appropriately wearing the face covers. “We can’t wait to see you tomorrow night.”
The ice hockey team had returned to PPG Paints Arena the night before to face the Philadelphia Flyers en route to a 5-2 victory. Only 2,800 people were allowed in to view the action and a zero tolerance mask policy was implemented. 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 wrong. In the original Getty photo, an unmasked fan is seen in the upper right corner, while two others did not have their faces properly covered.
One reviewer was quick to call the seemingly doctored image “terrible BS” from the team.
“Either enforce the rules or not, but don’t lie to us either,” the tweet read. “Piss Poor Jobs Pens”.
Another reviewer admitted that “growing pains” were expected with the mask policy considering it was the first home game with spectators, but still said the team should “do better.”
Meanwhile, another person joked that the team account appeared to be operated by a “royal penguin.”
“Photoshop is difficult without fingers,” said the answer.
In a statement to The Post on Thursday, the team acknowledged that a social media staff member posted the “tampered” photo and has since been reprimanded.
“We are excited to have our fans return to PPG Paints Arena, and following the advice of medical professionals, we are taking every precaution 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 have roving teams to enforce during home games.”
The team said that the “perhaps well-intentioned” staff member, however, should not have tampered with the photo of the large crowd of “some fans” who weren’t following the rules.
“Our social media team should never send altered photos to our fan base,” the statement continued. “This is a violation of our social media and security policy, and this staff member has been disciplined.”
Fans were allowed to return to the arena after Gov. Tom Wolf increased capacity in indoor venues to 15 percent, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“We are grateful for the loyalty 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 very supportive of our players over the years. I know the players appreciate it. “