Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who once threatened to bench any player who refused to stand for the national anthem, said that his views regarding such protests against racial injustice have changed following the nationwide protests over Minneapolis police killing George Floyd.
“When I stand for the flag and the national anthem, my reflection is solely on the men and women who have given their lives defending our country and constitution and freedom, along with those who are serving today,” Tortorella told The Athletic. “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.”
When Colin Kaepernick started the movement of athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality in 2016, Tortorella was Team USA coach at the World Cup of Hockey. There, Tortorella, whose son, Nick, is an Army ranger, said he wouldn’t tolerate any actions from players he interpreted as disrespectful to the flag.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” Tortorella said then.
Now, the 62-year-old former Rangers coach sees the world differently.
“The World Cup is a little bit of a different story. That’s playing for your country. But that isn’t now,” Tortorella said. “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?”
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