Say what you will about John Tortorella’s coaching ability, the guy provides quotes at an incredible clip. Because the Colin Kaepernick story has taken over all sports media, it was only a matter of time before it trickled into the NHL. Tortorella was asked about it during media availability for Team USA and had this to say:
"If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game." - John Tortorella— NYR Zone (@NYRZone) September 6, 2016
This perfectly summarizes the abject stupidity of the mainstream American take on this issue. Whatever you believe about the reasoning for Kaepernick’s stand (which you should at least spend some time thinking about), sitting for the national anthem is the most American thing anyone can possibly do.
We boast seemingly endlessly about the value of free speech and the freedom of expression we enjoy as Americans ... right up until somebody uses it. Tortorella is the perfect example of someone who sees blind patriotism as a quintessential American value, when nothing could be further from the truth..
Let’s take a quick peek at the first amendment, shall we?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I bolded the last line as it’s what’s most pertinent to this debate. Kaepernick exercised his freedom of expression to air grievances about the United States government and the country’s wholesale treatment of people of color. Tortorella’s response to that is extremely small-minded and shows he doesn’t understand the issue, nor does he understand the point of America’s freedoms in the slightest.
I would have been very surprised to see any NHL player sit for the national anthem at the World Cup of Hockey before this quote. Let’s face it, the NHL’s well-established diversity problem hasn’t exactly created a web of allies for people of color amongst the ranks of its players. The NHL, with the exception of the You Can Play Project, seems perfectly pleased with its players general lack of political action.
But then Tortorella opened his mouth, just like he always does, and created a problem where one did not exist before. By robbing his players of their American right to use their playform to protest, Tortorella has created an actual problem. There are many scenarios that could make this a very ugly situation.
What if a player actually does sit for the national anthem? Tortorella will have to stand firm, right? Then we’ll have an incident on our hands because the coach of Team USA has censored one of his players — all while we pretend we live in the freest country on Earth.
His disrespect of Kaepernick and his right to protest is more harmful to American values than anything the quarterback has done thus far. By prohibiting his players from expressing themselves, Tortorella has shown he hasn’t the foggiest idea what it means to be an American.
That makes him the perfect coach for Team USA, because it seems more and more than nobody else does either.