It seems like a decade ago, but it’s been three years since former Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown took a stand against police brutality by waging a silent protest during the signing of the national anthem. Surely you haven’t forgotten about Colin Kaepernick and the silent protests across the NFL, but Brown’s protests seems to have been forgotten by sports fans, let alone hockey fans.
At the time, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was highly critical of Brown’s protest and protests across the NFL. Torts even went so far as to say that if any of his players sat for the anthem, they’d be benched.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.”
Now, in the wake of protests across the entire United States, Torts is changing his tune. The veteran head coach claims he has been doing a lot of “listening and watching” and is now ready to admit that he was wrong.
“When I stand for the flag and the national anthem, my reflection is solely on the men and women who have given their lives defending our country and constitution and freedom, along with those who are serving today,” Tortorella said to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
“I have learned over the years, listening and watching, that men and women who choose to kneel during this time mean no disrespect toward the flag.”
As a result, Torts would not punish any of his players should they choose to protest.
“I would hope that if one of my players wanted to protest during the anthem, he would bring it to me and we would talk about it, tell me his thoughts and what he wanted to do,” he says. “From there, we would bring it to the team to discuss it, much like it’s being discussed in our country right now.”
For what it’s worth, Torts has an idea to help unify hockey fans. After all, the National Anthem has become a hot button issue. So why not have a “moment” ahead of the anthem for fans to reflect on the United States’ history of racial injustice.
“I do believe in our right to peaceful protest,” Tortorella said. “Why do we have to choose sides during this time? Can we not share a moment of unity and reflection prior to the national anthem dedicated to protesting the racial injustice in our world?
“It’s my choice to stand in respect and gratitude to those who have and still serve to protect our country and constitution and the civil rights of all people. This is by no means a show of disrespect. My family and I care deeply about the families who have suffered loss from unfair, unjust treatment. We support the peaceful protest for change.”
I gotta say, it’s an interesting concept but there’s no way the NHL will ever do anything this progressive. To be honest, I’m not even sure I agree with Tortorella’s sentiment, but I can appreciate that the man is doing his best to grow and change his perspective. Kudos, Torts.
For the full article from Portzline: