NHL joins kneeling during national anthem controversy

There has been a swirl of rhetoric over last weekend's NFL games regarding players not standing during the national anthem. Will it run over to the NHL now?

After President Trump denounced NFL players for going down to one knee during the playing of the national anthem, the chain reaction affect fell like a guillotine on public opinion.

Everyone seems to have an opinion

The spectrum of comments goes from NASCAR drivers to NFL players, to MLB players, to NBA players. Even announcer Bob Costas made this statement on how he feels about the topic:

“Patriotism comes in many forms and what has happened is that it’s been conflated with a bumper sticker-style kind of flag-waving and with the military only, so that people cannot see that in his own way Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing. And so too are some of these other players.

Richard Petty contributed his feelings about it in this way:

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

Not to be silent was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who tweeted:

“All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests … Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK.”

Even New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady who openly supports President Trump had his say:

“Yeah I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive,”

Now turning to the NHL

How does this conundrum affect the NHL? Now take into consideration that the NHL has maybe 30 black players in the entire league, compared to approximately 70% in the NFL.

NHL players had been silent until Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks made it clear he would not rule out the possibility of him kneeling during the anthem prior to an upcoming game.

Ward commented, “It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out. I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence. I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it.”

Even though Ward is a Canadian-born player, his family migrated from Barbados. He has experienced racism from his youth hockey days as a ten-year-old.

Other kids would call him racial slurs from the stands. It didn’t stop even though Ward made it to the highest level of hockey by playing in the NHL.

When Ward scored a series-clinching goal for the Washington Capitals in an overtime Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in 2012, he received death threats from Bruins’ fans on social media using racially explicit language.

Ward wears No. 42 to honor baseball legend, Jackie Robinson. He also supports Colin Kaepernick’s protesting by kneeling he started last season to object to racial profiling by police.

Ward made a further statement to update his feeling on kneeling during the national anthem.

“As a black man, I have experienced racism both inside and outside of the sporting world. I have been pulled over by law enforcement for no reason. I have been looked at suspiciously because of the color of my skin.”

Ward then gave a more definitive statement about what he would do.

Although I fully support those who before me have taken the lead in bringing awareness to these issues, I will not kneel during the national anthem like my brothers have done.”

Ward and Wayne Simmonds will meet in first game on October 4, 2017

What is becoming more and more of an important game will be when the San Jose Sharks open their 2017/18 regular season at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Joel Ward vs. Wayne Simmonds.

Every NHL game is important, but this game may have particular attention resulting from the tumultuous response on both sides of this issue.

Simmonds has also chipped in on the kneeling issue and made this statement:

“Being Canadian, it’s happened to me in Canada, as well. I think it spans outside the U.S., but the issue right now is within the U.S. Obviously we’re trying to find answers, we’re trying to get a conversation sparked. We’re trying to bring everyone together so it’s more united, and not everyone loves you and everyone hates you. At this point, it’s either black and white, but it shouldn’t be black or white. There’s a lot of issues in this country that people aren’t taking into consideration.

Will the two players kneel or stand for the national anthem?

It almost seems like an individual choice and the NHL also made a statement concerning how the league will address the issue. They reported that their pregame ceremony of observing the national anthem would not change.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, “Consensus was that fans come to the games to watch the games and enjoy the event. And the anthem is part of the event. It was viewed as a positive tradition.”

As far as the player’s protest, “the consensus was to respect the players and they have to decide what makes them comfortable” regarding “political and social issues.”

Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque checks in

Laraque is a retired NHL tough guy who played for the Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, and Montreal Canadiens covering a 12-year career.

Now Laraque wasn’t pleased when he found out that the Pittsburgh Penguins accepted an invitation to the White House to meet the president and celebrate their Stanley Cup victory earlier this year.

Laraque stated: “I know hockey’s more conservative than other sports, but this time it’s wrong. I’m surprised the NHL didn’t make a stand. To me, it’s an embarrassment that they’re going.”

Laraque hosts a radio show in Montreal, and he said he thinks the Penguins will look bad after the Steelers took a stand Sunday by not appearing on the field for the national anthem.

The Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that going to the White House is “a great opportunity.”

Pro’s and con’s of kneeling during the anthem

It’s very apparent that there are two sides to this issue, and each side believes they are right. Many believe the president should have been focusing on hurricane relief instead of commenting on what athletes do during the national anthem.

Supporters of the president feel he is insisting that the flag and the anthem receive respect.

So, the real question becomes… is kneeling during the national anthem before a sporting event disrespectful to those who have served in the military and gave their lives for our freedom?

Pat Tillman was a former NFL player for the Arizona Cardinals and was killed serving in the military while in Afghanistan in 2004. His wife Marie made a critical statement regarding the president’s remarks.

There is no real solution to this issue. Sides have been taken, and opinions are numerous.

Unlike an NFL, NHL, MLB, or NBA game this controversy won’t be decided anytime soon.

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