The Tampa Bay Lightning placed right wing J.T. Brown on waivers Saturday.
Brown was the first National Hockey League player to engage in a silent protest during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to draw attention to racial inequities and police brutality in America.
If Brown clears waivers, the Lightning will assign him to the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League farm team. Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman told The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith that the waive was about creating roster flexibility.
“I wanted flexibility within our roster, when the time comes, to recall players currently excelling in Syracuse and give them an opportunity to play,” Yzerman told Smith.
Brown, a five-season NHL veteran, has had an uneven 2017-18 season in Tampa Bay. He’s only appeared in 24 of the team’s first 44 games this season and has tallied only 1 goal and 3 assists.
He drew national attention on October 7, 2017 when he became the first NHL player to stage a silent protest during the national anthem, raising his fist in the air on the bench as the song played.
Several National Football League and National Basketball Association players, most of them black, have dropped to one knee, raised a clenched fist skyward, or engaged in some other form of silent protest to highlight what they consider poor treatment of African-American and other minorities in the United States.
President Donald Trump lashed out at athletes who protest during the national anthem, accusing them of showing disrespect for the American flag and a “total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect for everything we stand for.”
Brown said he decided to protest because “there comes a time when you cannot remain silent, hoping and wishing for change.”
J.T. Brown becomes 1st NHL player to protest during anthem https://t.co/B9DZhAJKWC pic.twitter.com/5X663vqQnX
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) October 8, 2017
“I also want to reiterate that this is not and has never been about the military or disrespecting the flag,” Brown said in an October tweet. “It’s about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in this country. It is something that I and many others feel needs to be addressed. I love my country, but that doesn’t mean I cannot acknowledge that it is not perfect.”
Brown backed up his protest with a search for understanding. He worked with the Tampa Police Department, including going on ride-alongs with officers in some of the city’s troubled areas.
A 27-year-old Minnesota native, Brown has been a community fixture in Tampa. He donated $1,500 last August as part of an effort to privately raise $140,000 that county officials said would be required to remove a Confederate monument from Tampa’s downtown courthouse.
Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. Download the Color of Hockey podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.