San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward went on record saying he would consider taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem just as many NFL players have. Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said Wednesday he supports Ward and is considering taking a knee himself.
“I definitely back Wardo. I know Wardo very well,” Simmonds said via Sam Carchidi of Philly.com. “What’s going on now is a shame. I definitely back his statements. It doesn’t mean I’m going to kneel, and it doesn’t mean I’m not going to kneel.”
The trend of athletes taking a knee while the Star-Spangled Banner is being performed has become a divisive issue in North America. It began in 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the anthem as his way of protesting police brutality and racism in America.
President Donald Trump’s recent comments and tweets suggesting NFL players refusing to stand for the anthem should be fined or suspended resulted in over 200 players kneeling, sitting or raising their fists during the anthem this past weekend.
Simmonds and Ward, who both grew up in Southern Ontario, are two of the NHL’s most prominent black players. Nashville Predators star blueliner P.K. Subban said he would “never” kneel during the anthem.
“Everybody is relating to politics, but for the people who are doing the kneeling and protesting peacefully, I think it has nothing to do with how [other] people are taking it,” Simmonds said. “Some people are saying it’s a disrespect to the flag, a disrespect to the Army. That’s not the thought process behind it. It’s just the vehicle that’s being used to create a conversation about social inequality.
“In this day and age, obviously, you have to be cognizant of everything that’s going on. You see the protests in the NFL, you see guys in baseball starting to kneel…It’s a hard subject to talk about. Everybody’s on one side or the other. It’s a fine line.”
The Flyers face the Sharks next Wednesday in the regular-season opener and the spotlight will be on Simmonds and Ward to see what they do.
“It’s not something I’ve put too much stock into, to be honest with you,” Simmonds said. “I knew at one point, this question was going to be asked to me, but I said to myself that I’ll take it as it comes. I don’t have anything in my mind at all as to what I would do. I’m not sure.”