A day after delivering a powerful message condemning racism and becoming the first NHL player to kneel for a national anthem, Matt Dumba opened up about the emotions he felt during his speech and what he wishes he had done differently.
Ahead of Saturday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, the 26-year-old Dumba joined the two teams at centre ice and spoke out against social and racial injustice before kneeling during “The Star Spangled Banner”.
On Sunday, Dumba wanted to make it clear that his decision to kneel was not meant to be disrespectful, and that his only regret was not doing the same for the Canadian anthem.
“I kind of froze up and I know why I knelt and it wasn’t a sign of disrespect by any means. It was to shed light on the people who’ve lived through injustice and oppression, especially in my home state of Minnesota,” he said.
“I think my biggest regret was not doing it for the Canadian national anthem as well because there needs to be a lot of light that has to be shed on what it happening in Canada and the oppression First Nations have felt for hundreds of years. I have First Nations and Aboriginal families that have lived it and I was disappointed looking back on it.”
Dumba said he plans to continue using his platform during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to speak out against social injustice, but — after speaking with friend and Minnesota Wild teammate J.T. Brown — he will choose to raise a fist during the anthems as opposed to kneeling.
“In the moment it just happened like that … for the rest of the time throughout playoffs and the qualifiers, I’ll be raising my fist for both national anthems, something that I can stay consistent through. Talking with J.T., if you’re not on that starting lineup you might be on the bench and if I take a knee on the bench you might not see me.”
Dumba said the opportunity to give his speech came about when the Hockey Diversity Alliance reached out to the NHL a few weeks ago, and he was given the green light on Thursday. Wild teammates Jonas Brodin and Alex Galchenyuk joined Dumba at Rogers Place on Saturday to provide him with support, letting him practice his speech before going out.
“The feeling was crazy, never felt anything like that,” Dumba said. “(Galchenyuk) said right before it that if you have the nerves to handle this, nothing can stop you tomorrow or on this playoff run.
“I just wanted to attack it and stepping out, I felt like a fighter seeing everyone in a circle there but all the strength it took to do it came from all the people who supported me along the way.”
Dumba and the Wild open their Stanley Cup playoff campaign against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT.