Black History Month: When J.T. Brown raised his fist

The Tampa Bay Lightning's J.T. Brown protests during the national anthem before the start of a game against the Florida Panthers at the BB
The Tampa Bay Lightning's J.T. Brown protests during the national anthem before the start of a game against the Florida Panthers at the BB /

In celebration of Black History Month, it’s time to revisit a pivotal moment from earlier this season

In the world of the NHL, February is “Hockey Is For Everyone” month. If you haven’t seen it yet, the hashtag floating around is #HockeyIsForEveryone. It is the norm to express opinions and beliefs through hashtags, and this is one that certainly hits home for me. Yes, it is  “Hockey Is For Everyone” month for the NHL. But for me and others across the country that look like me, it is Black History Month.

On the heels of an amazing opening weekend for the movie Black Panther and Chicago Blackhawks fans getting ejected from a game against the Washington Capitals for yelling racially charged chants at Devante Smith-Pelly, I want to revisit an old story.

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This story, which, in my personal opinion was not discussed much at all, is something that really needs to be examined and shared more. On Oct. 7th, 2017, then-Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown (now of the Anaheim Ducks) raised his fist during the national anthem. It was the first and only time that any NHL player, of any race, protested the anthem. The gesture was not received well and Brown was threatened by people in the community.

Post anthem protest, he said the following in a statement.

"“I understand that this issue cannot be resolved overnight, nor can I do it alone. I am done raising my fist during the national anthem… I am now using this support, opportunity and platform to call out everyone who agreed or disagreed with me to help by sharing suggestions, continuing respectful conversations and looking for ways they too can help make a difference in this community”"

He’s exactly right. Raising awareness cannot be done alone. While the percentage and total population of Black players across the NHL is extremely low (approximately 30 players on active rosters), it does require more participation.

It should be noted too, of the 30 players in the league that are Black, not all of them are African-American. But, as most would know, it does not always matter if your African-American or African-Canadian, racist actions happen regardless of your country of origin.

I, too, am joining him in using the platform provided to spread the awareness of wrong-doings in our world. Socially unacceptable behavior and injustices across this country and the world need to end. In the specific world of hockey, it needs to be accepted and encouraged to have a diverse pool of talent, fans, and contributors.

Yes, black people like hockey and they play hockey. No one, regardless of race or background, should not be shunned away from this great game either. People are more than just touchdowns, slam dunks, track records and poetic lyricists over some of the best musical beats known to man.

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While I personally wish that Brown’s protest continued on and gained more support, I’m glad that it took place. I’m not glad that it took place because people got mad. No, what I’m more happy about is that in this social/political climate we currently reside in, hockey did not run from the conversation. It is those actions from the places least expected, where change can rise from. This is only the beginning for the hockey world, and the Black hockey world to be more specific.