The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline is reporting that Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has reversed course on a controversial stance he had four years ago.
Tortorella, in 2016, said he would bench any American player that tried to protest during the national anthem of a World Cup of Hockey game.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” Tortorella said to ESPN’s Linda Cohn.
At the time, Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, had made headlines after taking a knee or remaining seated during the national anthem of preseason NFL games. Kaepernick was protesting police brutality and racial injustice in America.
But after “listening and watching”, especially after the murder of George Floyd due to police brutality, Tortorella now understands, like NFL quarterback Drew Brees, that the protests were never about the flag or the military. Tortorella has a 30-year-old son, Nick, who is an Army Ranger.
“I have learned over the years, listening and watching, that men and women who choose to kneel during this time mean no disrespect toward the flag,” Tortorella said to The Athletic, adding he would no longer punish any players that wanted to protest.
“The World Cup is a little bit of a different story; that’s playing for your country,” Tortorella said. “But that isn’t now.
“I would hope that if one of my players wanted to protest during the anthem, he would bring it to me and we would talk about it, tell me his thoughts and what he wanted to do. From there, we would bring it to the team to discuss it, much like it’s being discussed in our country right now… How can we rectify some of these problems?”
The news comes as NASCAR announced they will allow peaceful protests during the national anthem. The sport removed recent guidelines mandating that team members must stand for the national anthem. NASCAR has a race at Virginia’s Martinsburg Speedway tonight.
On Sunday, NASCAR official Kirk Price kneeled during the race’s invocation and raised a fist.
“If I would have seen it, I would have went there and stood next to him, kneeled next to him because it’s such a powerful move,” Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver, said. “A man, an incredible man, who has served our country, kneeling down. People think it’s disrespecting the flag and going against our military, and it’s definitely not.
“I was so uneducated what the kneeling meant when it started but now reading about it and what it stands for … and I’m still doing a lot of learning myself, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know everything about what’s going on in the world but that’s what we are trying to deliver the message. Listen and learn to be able to better educate ourselves.”
Wallace will drive a car with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme.
— Jim Utter (@jim_utter) June 9, 2020
Screenshot via the Columbus Blue Jackets
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