Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown has never been one to shy away from tough situations on the ice.
And Brown showed this week that he’s not afraid to wade into tough territory off the ice, either. Via Twitter and in a newspaper interview, Brown questioned the wisdom of World Cup of Hockey Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella’s declaration that he’d bench any player who doesn’t stand for the national anthem like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has done to protest the treatment of minorities in the United States.
On Tuesday, Brown tweeted “Wouldn’t benching a black man for taking a stance only further prove Kap’s point of oppression? But hey.” His post went viral.
Brown later told The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith he has “no ill will towards John Tortorella,” who’s the bench boss of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the National Hockey League season.
“He sees the situation through his reality and I see it through mine, as a black athlete in the NHL,” Brown told Smith. “I know I’m not on the United States World Cup roster, but I have had a chance to represent my country on other occasions. My tweet was hypothetical.”
Brown, a Minnesota native, added: “What if I took a stance to promote awareness for one of the many injustices still occurring in our country and was punished despite there being no rule or law against it? My tweet was a response to that question.”
He told The Times that he spoke out because “I don’t want young minorities who love the game of hockey to think that what’s going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community.”
“I love America and thank the military for protecting our freedoms, as well as law enforcement for protecting and serving our communities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that there is still racism today,” Brown added. “I am glad my tweet provoked discussion, because we need to start having a discussion.”
Brown has no intention of sitting out the national anthem a la Kaepernick. Instead, “I will look for more opportunities to positively impact my community and bring awareness to racial issues.”
Brown scored 8 goals and 14 assists in 78 games for the Lightning last season. He was held without a goal but tallied 2 assists in nine playoff games.