In the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, it wasn’t surprising that Blue Jackets and Team USA head coach John Tortorella made headlines yesterday when he said “if any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there for the rest of the game.”
Reactions to Tortorella’s remarks came quickly.
On Wednesday, Seth Jones — who plays for Torts in Columbus and, potentially, against Torts at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey — weighed in on what’s become a hot-button issue.
“I think that it’s fair,” Jones told Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “That’s [Tortorella’s] way of doing it, and obviously they’re comparing it to the whole Colin Kaepernick thing, but he’s got a right to believe whatever he wants.”
Jones, the highest-drafted African American player in NHL history, will represent Team North America at the tourney. He was acquired by Columbus from Nashville in a midseason blockbuster and proceeded to play 41 games under Tortorella last year, averaging a career-high 24:27 per night.
Jones reiterated to Fan 590 that he doesn’t take issue with his coach’s stance.
“I have no problem,” he explained. “You’re not going to see anything from any of us with Torts, so I have no problem with that.”
Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, who is also African American, took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to share his thoughts on the matter:
Brian Burke, serving as a senior advisor for Team USA, told USA Today he respects athletes’ rights to “express opinions, vote, attend political rallies and make political contributions.”
But Burke also said “I don’t believe the field of competition is a place to make political statements.”
In somewhat related news, it looks as though Jones’ Team North America is closing in on a plan for its pregame anthems at the World Cup.
According to TSN, the squad will play both Canadian and American anthems before each contest.