Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown didn’t have the answer to when or how often he’d raise his fist during the Star-Spangled Banner to show his support and solidarity toward the athletes and activists aiming to bring attention to injustices and inequality facing minorities in our society.
But he did in Sunrise on Saturday with his first chance.
This isn’t, however, the first time Brown raised his fist. He did the same in a preseason game versus the Florida Panthers on Sept. 28, and explained afterward to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that the demonstration was a “middle ground for those who say kneeling for the anthem disrespects the flag.”
He also told Smith that he informed his teammates of his plan and that he has their support. That didn’t prevent some from speculating why he was left out of the Tampa Bay lineup Friday in the team’s home opener.
Other black players in NHL have voiced their support for the cause largely spearheaded by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but Brown is the first to demonstrate it during the national anthem.
What’s important about his gesture is that he understands the consequence that came of Kaepernick’s cause, and was still willing. And like the quarterback, Brown has no assurances in the NHL, and therefore needs the support he deserves.