Joel Ward’s decision not to kneel for the National Anthem is frankly no more than what he is entitled to do, based on one assumption:
That he chose this without pressure from the San Jose Sharks, the National Hockey League, his fellow players or anyone else. And by all accounts, that is not the case. This was a free choice made by a free man.
[RELATED: Joel Ward pens heartfelt message, explains why he will not kneel during anthem]
Ward said in a tweet Thursday that the meaning of his protest would be lost in the same cacophony of misdirection that critics have used since Colin Kaepernick first got caught sitting for the anthem last year -- that it would be construed as a protest against the military or the flag.
As Ward was the only one of the 30 or so black players in the league who even said he was considering it (Nashville’s P.K. Subban, the league’s most prominent black player, said yesterday that he would not kneel for the anthem), there was every possibility that Ward would have been alone, and in doing so would have taken a similar proportion of abuse and grief to Kaepernick – a hard ask for anyone.
But he did say, “(N)ow that I have the world’s attention, let’s meet at the kitchen table, the locker room or in the stands and continue the healing process. Let our collective focus 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.”
That might be incendiary enough for some of our most bigoted citizens, but it is a message that many more might not have heard if he were on one knee.
And the choice ultimately must be his.