National anthem demonstrations have been gaining steam throughout the world of sports. Numerous NFL teams engaged in pregame protests on Sunday, and MLB catcher Bruce Maxwell has been doing the same since late last week.
Now, an NHL player is considering taking a knee in solidarity with these protestors. While San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward has yet to make a decision, he said that his interest in the movement was sparked by personal experience.
“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out,” Ward said, according to Paul Gackle of The Mercury News. “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, 36, was born in Canada to Barbadian immigrants and is one of approximately 30 black players in the NHL. The 10-season veteran said he first learned about racism while playing youth hockey in Ontario.
“I had no clue what the words meant until my parents educated me about what was going on in my surroundings. I was just a kid who fell in love with the game and picked up a hockey stick. I didn’t really look at it as colour,” Ward said. “As I got older and looked across the locker rooms and dressings rooms, I realised I’m the only black kid in the whole arena.”
National anthem demonstrations have been a major topic since last summer, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest of racial and social inequality. Last Friday, President Donald Trump encouraged NFL owners to fire the protestors, spurring many more players to protest in defiance of the remarks.
While some hockey figures have criticised the anthem protests, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer insisted that he’ll have Ward’s back regardless of what the player decides.
“I went to law school. I’m a big freedom of speech guy,” he said. “Everyone has the right to message how they want to.”
The NHL will kick off its 2017-18 season on October 4. The Sharks are set to host the Philadelphia Flyers at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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