Steven Stamkos would support a teammate's protest
So far, there hasn't been a Lightning player who has made a silent protest during the national anthem, like many NFL stars have done.
But if a teammate does, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos would support them. The All-Star just hopes the original message behind the protests isn't lost. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the string of protests last fall when he kneeled for the anthem, trying to bring awareness to police brutality against minorities, particularly African American.
"I think there's a lot of confusion, some clarification needed with the guys who are protesting," Stamkos, a Toronto native, told the Tampa Bay Times today. "What are they protesting? A lot of people I don't think understand. I don't think anyone's intention while protesting is to disrespect the flag, disrespect the military, or anyone who has fought so bravely to have freedom in the United States of America.
"I see it as someone that has that right, and is using that right to fight for someone's beliefs in that. That's the great thing about this country, is you can do what you feel is right and everyone is going to have their own opinions."
As for losing sight of the message: "Especially when it goes to sports that get the most coverage, the NFL, it seems like everyone is waiting to see the national anthem to see who protests and who doesn't," Stamkos said. "Instead of the actual game, we're getting away from the actual point of the protest. I think that's been lost in lot of the media coverage, that's why there's so much confusion."
So far, it's mostly been the NFL with anthem protests, with people wondering if the NBA, or even NHL would have players do it.
"We're here to play a sport and whatever happens, happens, we're going to support the guys," Stamkos said. "But (protesting) is not a main thing on our radar I don't think."
Veteran wing Ryan Callahan, a former U.S. Olympian, said the Lightning hasn't discussed any organizational policy on anthem protests. Callahan, 32, said he won't sit for the anthem, but would stand behind a teammate if he did.
Lightning wing J.T. Brown, one of about 30 black players in the NHL, told the Times Sunday he hadn't ruled out protesting, but was focusing on the season. Just by saying that, Brown received nasty messages on social media, including threats.
"It's a person's choice," Callahan said. "They have that right. If they want to do a peaceful protest and sit for the anthem, they have that right. It's what this country is build on, having that right.
"At the same time, I see the flipside of it. While you're doing that, you don't want to disrespect the flag, disrespect the military. The flags stands for so much, people have given up their lives for the flag. I hate to see that disrespected. I think both sides have a very good point. Me, personally, I'm not going to sit for the anthem. But at the same time, if a teammate did that, I'll be behind him. They're my teammate, I'll support them."
"If nothing else it is starting discussions, which is always good. I'm open to that. It's the unity you see in sports because we have such a big platform. So many kids look up to us, we're such role models that we have a platform to make a difference. If a guy were to sit and hold a peaceful protest, people are going to listen. That's why you see it so much in sports."