The Pittsburgh Penguins sparked online backlash Wednesday after a social media staffer photoshopped face masks onto 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 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 ice hockey team had returned to PPG Paints Arena a night earlier to face the Philadelphia Flyers en route to a 5-2 win. Just 2,800 people were allowed inside to watch the action and a zero-tolerance mask policy was in place. It was the Penguin’s 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 Getty photo, an unmasked female fan is seen in the top-right corner, while two others didn’t have their faces properly covered.
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. “Piss 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 Post Thursday, 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 Gov. Tom Wolf raised capacity at indoor venues to 15 percent, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“We’re grateful for the loyalty that our fans showed during this difficult time,” said 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.”