Well, here we are… With hundreds of NFL players now continuing what Colin Kaepernick started, for a moment it was looking as though the protesting could soon be making its way into the NHL.
After stating that he has “experienced a lot of racism in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence,” Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks has recently made it known that he was contemplating taking a knee during the playing of the national anthems.
Fast forward a few days, and Joel Ward has since decided that he will not be protesting – outlining that people need to “be part of the solution and not part of the problem.” However, had Ward decided to go through with this, it would have been the most commendable act of courage that the NHL has seen in quite some time.
According to national media commentator and award-winning author Jane Hampton Cook, one of the many reasons in which people stand for their respective national anthems is to “salute the principle of justice.” In saying this, however, what if you are an individual who has been given every reason to feel as though justice doesn’t exist?
The following information has been outlined numerous times over the past 12 months, but while we are on this topic, let’s go ahead and take this opportunity to explore the oppression that people of color face in North America.
In the United States, black people make up the large majority of the country’s unemployed population. There is even a recognized study suggesting that a potential employer is 50% more likely to follow up on a resume with a white-sounding name, more so than a resume with a black-sounding name.
Regarding healthcare, African-American children are subject to the kind of death rates that you would expect to see in a third world country, and the instance of HIV amongst black people rivals that of poverty-stricken communities in Africa.
Education is another problem, as the rate of black people over the age of 25 with a high school diploma is 13.5% less than that of white people.
Finally, and most notably, people of color fall victim to police brutality at a much higher rate than white people. Just in this year alone, 207 black people have been killed by the police. Statistics also show that black people are 3x more likely to be murdered by the police, and that 30% of these victims were unarmed upon being killed.
While these numbers only depict the problem of oppression in the USA, you are heavily mistaken if you think that Canada is also without its fair share of issues. Just take look at this study from 2014 showing the percentage of police-related hate crimes in Canada compared to that of America:
Hate crimes driven by race are still a major problem north of the border, and religiously motivated attacks are almost double that of what we’ve seen in America.
So, after taking all of these points into consideration, let’s ask ourselves the following questions.
If you were a person of color who has experienced this type of oppression yourself, or you know of other people who are currently going through it, then why would you want to stand up and celebrate a country that is meant to be built on the “principle of justice?”
If you were a professional athlete such as Joel Ward who sees this oppression happening, and you have also experienced racism firsthand throughout your entire life, then why would you want to stand up and be proud of that?
The answer that most people will respond with is “to respect the flag, and to respect the military.”
With all due respect, this answer is wrong on so many levels.
Soldiers of any free country fight for one thing – to ensure that their country maintains its liberty. When these troops are away from their loved ones, do you honestly think that a piece of fabric, or lyrics to a song, is what is on their minds? Or, do you think it is more likely that they are thinking about their families and their right to live freely and peacefully?
Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers (who has served in Afghanistan on more than one occasion) recently made news for being the lone player on his team to leave the locker room and stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. In the wake of this, he has since offered the following statement:
“People who are taking a knee are not saying anything negative about the military. They’re not saying anything negative about the flag. They’re just trying to protest the fact that there are some injustices in America.”
The many players who have participated in these anthem protests have stated dozens of times that they have the utmost respect for their military men and women, and until one of these athletes openly says that they do not respect the military, then who are we to assume their intent? Calling these players disrespectful is simply how narrow-minded people are trying to deflect the attention away from the real issues at hand.
In some places, there are people being senselessly murdered in the street by those who are meant to be protecting us. Inspite of this, a peaceful protest that physically harms nobody is what is what has sent us into total state of chaos.
That is ridiculous.
As outlined earlier, Joel Ward has decided against taking a knee – stating that he is seeking to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. However, if Ward is passionate about sending a message against oppression and racism, then it is disgraceful that we have created an environment in which sticking up for your human rights makes you feel as though you are a problem.
If Joel Ward isn’t proud to be involved with a certain country, then it is his right as a free man to express that. Honestly, that should be where this topic starts, and finishes.
Now, it is worth noting that protesting in the NHL is obviously different to protesting in the NFL. African-Americans make up almost 70% of the NFL’s players, yet there are barely 30 black players across the entire NHL. Obviously, if Ward were to take a knee, then chances are he would be feeling much more alone than what Colin Kaepernick probably was more than 12 months ago. At the end of the day, however, that is exactly why taking a knee would be so admirable.
For any country to transform the treatment of their oppressed communities, people need to start putting their foot down, and they need to start saying that “enough is enough.” The change that so many seek will never manifest unless something triggers it, and professional athletes are in a unique position that allows them influence millions of people around the world.
By peacefully taking a knee, these athletes are simply sending the message that oppression is not okay and that you can speak up no matter who you are.
So, Joel Ward, if you ever decide to change your mind and become the first NHL player to take knee, then you would have the full support of yours truly.
H.A. Goodman. 2016. 70 Percent Of NFL Players Are Black Men. Colin Kaepernick Should Be Praised, Not Condemned. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/70-of-nfl-players-are-black-men-colin-kaepernick_us_57c7b12be4b07addc4114047. [Accessed 2 October 2017].
Jane Hampton Cook. 2017. 5 reasons we stand for the flag. [ONLINE] Available at: http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/353087-5-reasons-we-stand-for-the-flag. [Accessed 2 October 2017].
mappingpoliceviolence.org. 2017. Mapping Police Violence. [ONLINE] Available at: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/. [Accessed 2 October 2017].
nea.org. 2017. Blacks: Education Issues. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nea.org/home/15215.htm. [Accessed 2 October 2017].
revcom.us. 2013. The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need. [ONLINE] Available at: http://revcom.us/a/144/BNQ-en.html. [Accessed 2 October 2017].