SUNRISE — Lightning wing J.T. Brown on Saturday became the first NHL player to make a silent protest during the national anthem at a regular-season game.
Brown, 27, raised a closed right fist during the anthem before the game against the Panthers at BB&T Center. He did the same thing before the Sept. 28 preseason game against the Panthers, also in Sunrise, saying he wanted to bring awareness to police brutality against minorities and racial inequality.
"I know there's going to be negative backlash," Brown said after Saturday's game. "But in my heart, I know I did what was right."
Brown said he consulted with his family and several active military members. He decided he wouldn't kneel or sit during the anthem, like approximately 250 NFL players have done in the first few weeks of their season.
"I've been able to see both sides, but I still wanted to show my support for the root of the protest, talking about police brutality and inequality," Brown recently told the Tampa Bay Times. "Those are issues that we need to be talking about."
Brown spoke with coaches and teammates before the Sept. 28 protest. Captain Steven Stamkos and others have said they would support a teammate's protest.
The Lightning released a statement Saturday that said, "The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate the moment before every game when we can unite as a community, paying homage to a flag that is representative of our nation and those who have sacrificed. At the same time, we respect our players and individual choices they may make on social and political issues."
Brown is active in the Tampa Bay community, serving as a mentor to at-risk kids in the Lightning's "Guide the Thunder" program. He also donated $1,500 toward removing a Confederate statue from downtown Tampa.
"For me, right now, we're going to keep trying to bring awareness," Brown said recently. "You want to make sure you're in the community, you're backing up what you're talking about, what you're supporting, not just talk."
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