COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBSNewYork/AP) — John Tortorella is warning his Team USA players that they will ride the bench during the World Cup of Hockey if they pull a Colin Kaepernick and don’t stand for 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,” the former New York Rangers head coach told ESPN.
Tortorella, the current Columbus Blue Jackets coach, told USA Today that it’s an “honor” to be the coach for Team USA during this month’s hockey tournament.
“It is hockey, but I also think it is a huge platform for us to represent our country, especially in today’s world, with everything going on,” he said.
The San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback ignited a national firestorm of controversy for refusing to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” saying he’s trying to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality taking place in the country.
Forward David Backes of the Boston Bruins said it’s a “matter of debate” trying to take a stand by sitting during the anthem.
“I think as athletes we have a great platform and to use it to influence social change is within our right,” Backes explained to USA Today. “Whether you should do that during the anthem, which stands for our country and salutes those who have given their lives for our country, allowing athletes to play, is a matter of debate. I have my opinions on that.”
He continued, “[Kaepernick] is going to do his thing, but I salute those who have stood for our country, who have died and given limbs and lives for us. I will salute that flag every time it is raised.”
New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said the players are “just concentrating on representing their country.”
“It’s making headlines and everything,” Schneider told USA Today. “It’s his right to do, but everyone here is just concentrating on representing their country and their flag.”
President Barack Obama also weighed in on the controversy during a news conference in China on Monday, saying he has no doubt that Kaepernick is sincere and “cares about some real, legitimate issues.”
Obama said he hasn’t paid close attention to the matter, but added approvingly that Kaepernick has generated more national conversation about “issues that need to be talked about.”
Despite the controversy, Kaepernick’s jersey has been the seventh best seller in the NFL over the past week and third among quarterbacks behind only behind Cam Newton and Tom Brady, according to DICK’s Sporting Goods Jersey Report.
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