BOSTON (CBS) — National anthem protests are spilling into the NHL, as the responses to President Donald Trump’s recent comments against the NFL are crossing into other major sports leagues. The Sharks’ Joel Ward and the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds are two players who have publicly said they are considering kneeling during the national anthem or a similar action.
The NHL Players Association has made it clear that it supports their rights to peacefully protest.
Via NHL writer John Hoven on Twitter, NHLPA head Donald Fehr has released a memo to players titled “Freedom of Expression”, granting his support to those who choose to kneel during the anthem or exercise a similar form of peaceful protest. Here’s the full statement:
“We believe each player may choose to speak out or engage in peaceful protest on matters that are important to him. A player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves respect,” the memo reads in part.
Ward’s planned protest, presumably against injustice toward African Americans, carries some added significance in Boston. After scoring the series-winning goal for the Capitals over the Bruins in the 2012 playoffs, Ward was the target of a number of tweets from angry hockey fans containing racial epithets and other obscenities.
The Bruins’ David Backes recently commented on the matter, saying there are “better ways to go about” protesting than kneeling during the national anthem, which a large segment of fans have taken as a sign of disrespect toward the American flag and the U.S. military. Backes did, however, support the idea of an “open conversation” with Ward and others to “have some effective change that’s looked at as making our society better.”
It’s unknown at this point whether any members of the Bruins would protest during the national anthem in upcoming games.