Prior to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Saturday matchup against the Florida Panthers, Tampa forward J.T. Brown raised his right fist during the playing of the national anthem. Brown is the first NHL player to protest during the anthem amidst increasing protests across professional sports.
JT Brown goes fist up during the national anthem in Florida pic.twitter.com/n96r7DOKf0
J.T. Brown Speaks Out
Brown remained standing with his fist raised for the entirety of the anthem. He used the same protest in a pre-season game a month before.
“I wanted to do something to show my support,” Brown said. “There are some issues that we have to talk about. So, in my mind, just trying to bring a little more awareness, and any type of conversation that we can get started would be great. I know there’s going to be negative backlash. But, in my heart, I know I did what was right.”
Brown was correct in predicting negative backlash. On Sunday, Brown took to Twitter, saying that he had received death threats and other racist remarks for his actions. He also stated that he did not regret his actions and would continue to speak out.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/Ql2vEFwl5E
While Brown is the first NHL player to take action, other players have also voiced their opinions. Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks said that he would consider kneeling, but ultimately decided not to. Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said that he would “never” kneel during the anthem.
While the NHL has insisted that its players remain apolitical, there are no rules in place requiring certain behavior during the anthem. The Tampa Bay Lightning issued a statement following Saturday’s game in support of Brown’s actions.
“The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate the moment before every game when we can unite as a community, paying homage to a flag that is representative of our nation and those who have sacrificed,” the statement said. “At the same time, we respect our players and individual choices they may make on social and political issues.”
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