SAN JOSE — Joel Ward will stand during the national anthem the next time he suits up for an NHL game with the Sharks.
Ward, who’s expected to be in the lineup when the Sharks take on the Anaheim Ducks in Orange County for their fourth preseason game Thursday night, released a statement on Twitter Thursday morning stating that he will not join the social protest against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem because he believes, “the original message that was trying to be communicated had been lost.”
Some thoughts…excuse the length! pic.twitter.com/YUNMgjaAgn
— Joel Ward (@JRandalWard42) September 28, 2017
The veteran forward, who’s one of about 30 black players in the NHL, said that progress can be made in a variety of different ways.
“And that’s where I want everyone to refocus their attention — on moving progress forward,” Ward said via Twitter. “We need to be working on bridging the gap between people of all color, and between law enforcement and minorities.”
“How can we be part of the solution and not part of the problem — or be another distraction from what the real issues are?”
Despite his decision, Ward expressed his continued support for the social protest against racial inequality and police brutality, started by former-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, that swept through the NFL last weekend after President Donald Trump said that any professional athlete who kneels during the national anthem should be fired.
“I hold an immense amount of respect for the many players — across the sporting world — that have chosen to peacefully bring attention to a couple of big issues in today’s society,” Ward said in his statement.
“Make no mistake that racism exists and that people of color are treated differently on a day-to-day basis.”
The 36-year-old forward is hoping that the conversation about inequality and police brutality can extend beyond the playing field now that awareness is being raised.
“Let our collective attention be on bridging the gap between communities — on working to heal generations of unequal treatment of people of color in the United States of America — and not turning our backs on that which is hard to face head on,” he said.
Ward, a Canadian player who’s the son of Barbadian immigrants, told the Mercury News Tuesday that he was considering the idea of joining the protest at an upcoming Sharks game, sharing his first-hand experiences with racism in the game of hockey and away from the rink.
“I’ve dealt with it a lot,” Ward told the Mercury News. “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.”
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