Sharks’ Ward may join NFL protest, take knee during anthem.



SAN JOSE — Joel Ward isn’t ruling out the possibility that he could become the first NHL player to join the protests sweeping through the NFL by taking a knee during the national anthem at an upcoming Sharks game.

As one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL, Ward has first-hand experience with racism. He knows what it’s like to be racially profiled by the police and he’s troubled by the rhetoric being used by President Donald Trump toward African American protestors in the NFL and NBA. 

“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out,” Ward said when asked by the Mercury News whether he’d consider taking a knee during the national anthem at an upcoming Sharks game.

“I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence. I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it.”

Ward, a Canadian player who’s the son of Barbadian immigrants, felt the sting of racism the first time he laced up the skates to play in a youth hockey game as a nine or 10-year-old in Toronto. Kids were calling him names and making racial slurs toward him from the stands.

“I had no clue what the words meant until my parents educated me about what was going on in my surroundings. I was just a kid who fell in love with the game and picked up a hockey stick. I didn’t really look at it as color,” Ward said. “As I got older and looked across the locker rooms and dressings rooms, I realized I’m the only black kid in the whole arena. 

“I’ve experienced racism as a kid, as an adult. I think I’ll always experience it.”

Racism followed Ward to the NHL and reared its ugly head when he scored a series-clinching goal for the Washington Capitals in overtime of Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in 2012.

After the game, Ward received death threats from Bruins fans on social media who addressed him with a torrent of racially-charged language.

But the racism that Ward has experienced in his life extend beyond the rink.

Ward, who wears No. 42 as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, sympathizes with the Black Lives Matter movement and the national anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick in the NFL last season because he’s been the subject of racial profiling by police throughout his life.

“I’ve dealt with it a lot,” Ward said. “I’ve had a few things that have happened to me that you could say are not the norm. I’ve been singled out at different events. I’ve been pulled over. I’ve dealt with racism right to my face.

“It’s just been part of life that you always have to deal with, so when people get into Kaepernick and some of these other guys, saying that they’re disrespecting the flag, it’s not about just that. It’s about creating awareness about what people, like myself, go through on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s going to the mall or whatever.”

The veteran forward is glad that NFL players are using their statuses as pro athletes to raise awareness to issues of police brutality. On Sunday, more than 200 NFL players took a knee during the national anthem, and three teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans, stayed in the locker room as the Star Spangled Banner was being sung.



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