John Tortorella, head coach of Team USA at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, is not a fan of the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick’s recent tactics regarding the American national anthem.
When asked by Linda Cohn of ESPN how he would deal with one of his players expressing a political stance at a hockey game, he bristled.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” he said.
Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, recently sat during the American anthem played at pre-season NFL games he participated in. He did so because, in his words, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”
Tortorella also spoke to Kevin Allen of USA Today Tuesday, in an article that surveyed NHLers David Backes and Cory Schneider.
“It is hockey, but I also think it is a huge platform for us to represent our country, especially in today’s world, with everything [that’s] going on,” he said.
Brian Burke, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations as well as a senior adviser to Team USA, said the playing field is not the place to make political statements.
He said he respects athletes’ right to “express opinions, vote, attend political rallies and make political contributions … But I don’t believe the field of competition is a place to make political statements.”
Kaepernick’s coach, Chip Kelly, told NFL.com that protesting the national anthem is “his right as a citizen,” and that “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
The NFL released this statement regarding such protests:
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
Incidentally, Tortorella spoke with Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch Sunday about his son who is an Army Ranger, currently serving his country abroad.
“I know these are hockey games … but I do look at it like it’s for my country,” Tortorella said. “What Nick is doing by far dwarfs what we do. We’re entertainers; we’re playing a sport. But with my son over there — this might sound selfish — I want to team up with him and help my country. I get pretty caught up in representing my country. There’s nothing like it.”
Tortorella told Portzline that an Army Ranger will be “on the bench” with Team USA during a pre-tournament game Friday against Canada.