The anthems echoed off the walls in Rogers Place and Matthew Dumba stood there on the bench, his fist raised, his fight for a more just future pressing on.
Dumba, who on Saturday became the first NHL player to kneel during the American national anthem, peacefully protested during the playing of both the “Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” on Sunday night prior to the Minnesota Wild‘s game against the Vancouver Canucks by raising his right fist. He was the only player to do so.
“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,” Dumba said earlier in the day. “Talking with J.T. [Brown], 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.”
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Brown, who also plays for the Wild and recently penned an op-ed detailing his experiences with racism, raised his fist during the “Star Spangled Banner” in 2017 to protest against racism and police brutality.
“Proud to call Matt Dumba a friend,” Brown tweeted on Sunday night. “Keep being a leader.”
Learning how to make history and change the world is no easy feat. In hindsight, Dumba wished that when he kneeled for the American anthem, he had done so for the Canadian anthem, too, because racism is not exclusively an American problem. It exists everywhere, and must be denounced everywhere, too.
“I think my biggest regret is 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 people have felt here for hundreds of years,” Dumba said. “I have First Nations and Aboriginal families that have lived it and I was disappointed looking back on it.”
The act of raising a fist during the anthem at sporting events dates back to 1968, when 200-meter sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists on the medal stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of Black Americans.
Players across all sports have used their leagues’ restarts to ensure social justice remains at the forefront of conversations even as wins and losses are discussed.
During Major League Baseball’s first games of its pandemic-delayed season, several players took a knee during the national anthem. In the NBA, players have knelt, too — including the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, who became the first teams to kneel during the Canadian national anthem on Saturday.