Team USA NHL Coach: If Players Sit During the National Anthem, They’re Benched for the Rest of the Game

“If any of my players sit on the bench for the National Anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” John Tortorella told Linda Cohn of ESPN— words that have created their own storm throughout social media. Tortorella, the Team USA Coach for the World Cup Championships, isn’t known for biting his tongue and weighed in on the latest controversy engulfing the country. Not only did he take a controversial stance, but Tortorella doubled down on it Wednesday when he spoke after the team’s on-ice workout.

Twitter exploded after the comments and continued to stir the following day.

Tortorella spoke about how this isn’t about a protest or politics, but respect of the flag, the country, and the people who fight every day to keep us safe. In a follow-up interview with Linda Cohn he said, “It’s just not right. This is our country. Our people are fighting for our country, our flag and our anthem. That shouldn’t come into this equation at all. There are other ways of doing things.”

In contrast, the Canadian coach was asked by reporters about whether he would bench players if they sat during the Canadian Anthem and he quickly shut it down. “What I know is I’m not going to have to make that decision because that’s not going to happen,” Babcock told reporters. It should be noted that the tournament is being played on Canadian soil and that adds to the factor of playing for your country.

Now I’ve gone back and forth on my opinions about this controversial topic. I have read, considered, and listened to as many diverse points of view I could find. I am a staunch believer in the freedoms which our Constitution gives as well as the many Rights we find within those lines. I might completely disagree with a person’s decision to sit or kneel during the National Anthem, but I strongly believe it is their right to do so.

I don’t agree with Colin Kaepernick and his decision sit down and not honor the flag and the men and women who have served and given their lives for his right not to do so. I will however say that he has just as much of a right to not stand as those who do.

This leaves me at an interesting crossroads in regards to the comments John Tortorella made these past few days. As I stated above, I agree that people in this country have the right to not stand – and by arguing that they don’t, you argue the opposite about what America truly stands for.

I do however believe that as the head coach for the United States’ team, he has the right to make a decision about who to bench and not to bench. It’s a curious concept and one that I haven’t fully wrapped my head around. I will always argue that Colin Kaepernick has the right to sit, kneel, lay down, or do what he pleases, despite not agreeing with it myself.

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