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.”
“How can we rectify some of these problems?”
I gotta say… I can really respect a man who accepts that he was wrong and can change. While I may not agree with Tortorella on this issue, I can respect the man for growing and constantly trying to see new perspectives. Kudos, Torts.
For what it’s worth several of Tortorella’s Blue Jackets players including captain Nick Foligno and forward Cam Atkinson, have issued statements on social media committing to learning about racial inequality and helping in the push for change.
For the full interview from Portzline, click below: