Could Joel Ward Become the First NHL Player to Take a Knee During National Anthem?
San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward says he hasn’t thought too much about it yet, but he has not ruled out taking a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness about racism in hockey.
Ward recently talked about his experiences as one of just 30 black NHL players in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News.
“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out,” Ward said when asked whether he’d take a knee during an upcoming Sharks game. “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.”
Ward, a Canadian born to Barbadian immigrants, says he’s been the target of racist slurs and taunts from a very young age.
“I’ve dealt with [racism] a lot,” Ward said. “I’ve had a few things that have happened to me that you could say are not the norm. I’ve been singled out at different events. I’ve been pulled over. I’ve dealt with racism right to my face.
“It’s just been part of life that you always have to deal with. So when people get into Kaepernick and some of these other guys, saying that they’re disrespecting the flag, it’s not about just that. It’s about creating awareness about what people, like myself, go through on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s going to the mall or whatever.”
Hockey is a notoriously a-political sport. The emphasis on team, on the complete sublimation of the self, makes individuals reluctant to do anything that might make them stand out. This is so much the case that players who actually celebrate and have fun—such as P.K. Subban, another black NHL player—get called all sorts of names.
However, should Ward decide to take a knee during the national anthem, he’ll have the support of his employer.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told the Mercury News he’s “a big freedom of speech guy,” and that he believes players should express themselves however they want.
GM Doug Wilson apparently feels the same.
“Doug’s been unbelievable,” Ward said of his conversations with Wilson. “He agrees that it’s freedom of speech. Obviously, he’s aware of what’s going on. I’ve let him know how I feel about the whole issue and he’s been open to listening and offering support.”
Personally, I hope Ward does take a knee just so we can see Don Cherry‘s head explode on live television.
Hat Tip – [Mercury News]