I am a straight, white, 28 year old Canadian male.
I, like so many others just like me, have literally ZERO idea what it’s like to be persecuted for my skin, or who I love, or what I believe in. I have never been the recipient of hate speech and I have never had a police officer draw a gun on me. I’ve lived my life free of worry that one day I could be beat up or killed for who I am.
Joel Ward has not. Like so many other people of color, he has lived a life of hate and bigotry. On September 26th, he had indicated that he has not ruled out taking a knee during the American anthem. You can read Paul Gackle’s story here.
Now I am not here to tell you what to believe in. What I am here to tell you is that he, and all other athletes who peacefully protest, have my unequivocal support. And frankly, I think they should have yours as well.
Joel Ward, and other athletes, are not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the military. They are protesting systemic racism, not national pride. Colin Kaepernick started protesting against police brutality and the unequal treatment of other non-white races, particularly black people. Athletes have a powerful platform and kneeling during an anthem is a way to make sure they can have their voices heard.
These voices have been heard. They may not be heard correctly, and change may not have happened yet, but that’s why white allies are important.
As has been pointed on Twitter and other social sites, real change can happen when white people become allies of guys like Kaep and the black community at large. It’s an uncomfortable truth that white people, particularly old rich white dudes, control large sections of what happens in society. Almost every sports owner in North America is white. Adam Silver, Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred, and Gary Bettman are all white guys. The NHL has roughly 30 black players. You get the picture.
When white people have that much control, other white people listen to them. That’s how change happens. Sometimes, it’s the only way that change happens.
We, Canadians and Americans, share similar values. One of those values is free speech and the right to peacefully demonstrate for your cause. No one can deny that soldiers have died for the right to protect that core value of our societies. But at the same time, no one can deny that kneeling during an anthem is peaceful and an act of free speech. This is the way that some athletes have deemed the best way to affect change in theirs and many others lives.
This is why I find it imperative that they should be supported. If Joel Ward wants to take a knee, go ahead, you’ve got my support. You have my attention for a cause that I have never experienced and probably never will. You have my effort to help change the ongoing police brutality and treatment of black people. I hope, too, that the San Jose Sharks organization, from owner to management to coaches to players, comes together to support you.
I hope if and when Ward takes a knee; there is not a single “boo” in SAP Center or any other arena. Booing his freedom of speech is not only ironic, but flies in the face of what it means to live in a free society. We need to come together, as humans, to stop the ongoing abuse of others. It may take years to get to a time where this is in the past, but it has to start now because it should have never gotten to this point.
I hope in reading my thoughts on this, you will see that something needs to be done in support of everyone who has been discriminated against for simply existing. The American, or Canadian, thing to do would be to respect their right to protest and engage with them to help forge a path forward together.
So Joel, take your knee. I have no concept of what it must be like to have lived a life in hockey as a black person. I hope that in the future you and others have brought about change and brought people together to solve these issues. You have my support.