USA Hockey Coach John Tortorella wants none of his players joining Colin Kaepernick’s protest against the national anthem.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” Tortorella told ESPN on Tuesday. He reaffirmed that policy on Wednesday, after the story triggered a media backlash. “I’m not backing off.”
Kaepernick set off a national controversy last month when it was revealed that he was sitting, or kneeling, during the Star-Spangled Banner at the start of 49ers football games in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Separately, it was revealed that Kaepernick had worn socks in practice this summer that depicted police officers as pigs.
A few National Football League players have joined Kaepernick’s protest. Last week, Megan Rapinoe, who plays soccer for the U.S. women’s national team, said she would also boycott the anthem. Most criticisms from within professional sports have been tentative, defending the protesting the players’ freedom of speech while disagreeing — sometimes — with their methods.
Tortorella, whose son is in the Army Rangers, is having none of it. The Columbus Dispatch — hometown paper of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, whom Tortorella coaches during the regular season — reported:
“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.”
On Wednesday, Tortorella continued defending his views, as ESPN reports:
We’re in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves. That’s what’s great about our country. We can do that. But when there are men and women that give their lives for their flag, for their anthem, have given their lives, continue to put themselves on the line with our services for our flag, for our anthem, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries for these people that give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there’s no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you’re trying to make a point.
It is probably the most disrespectful thing you can do as a U.S. citizen is to bring that in. Because that’s our symbol. All for [expressing] yourself. That’s what’s so great. Everybody does. But no chance when it comes to the flag and the anthem. No chance.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.