The Colin Kaepernick protest campaign has become so contagious that it has now bled into the world of hockey.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown became the first known National Hockey League player to raise his fist during the national anthem before a game against the Florida Panthers, joining the silent, peaceful protests that have dominated the NFL and other sports the past two seasons.
Kaepernick was the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the national conversation on respecting the flag when he began sitting, then kneeling, during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality during the 2016 season.
Brown is one of only 30 Black players in the entire NHL, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Knowing that he will face some type of backlash for any type of protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Brown chose to stand throughout the anthem as video showed him with his eyes closed and head bowed as the anthem played. The Times said his left hand wrapped around his hockey stick and his right hand raised in a closed fist.
The NHL has no specific rules “governing what players must do during the national anthem,” ESPN reported.
Interviewed after the game, Brown said he chose to raise his fist during the anthem to “show my support.”
“There are some issues that we have to talk about,” the 27-year-old told the Times. “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.”
The Times added that Brown took a similar stance during one preseason game.
What does the team front office think about Brown’s stance? The Lightning brass released the following statement: “We respect our players and individual choices they may make on social and political issues.”