BRIGHTON, Mass – As a two-time US Olympian, David Backes has never shied away from showing love and respect for the country he grew up playing and loving hockey, or for the people who serve and protect it as well. So, it’s probably no surprise where the 33-year-old Minnesotan came down when asked about the national anthem protests that have happened in the other three major North American sports, and hit something of an unfortunate high note Sunday in the NFL after some unfortunate, and all too predictably divisive comments, from President Donald Trump.
“My opinion is that I’m American and I love my country and I love my flag,” said Backes. “I’ve got great buddies that have been in the military and they’ve sacrificed for my freedom, so I’d never want to do anything to disrespect that. My standpoint is that I’m standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I’m staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices. If I’ve got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I’m going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do.
“I love what I do. There are better avenues and better methods to state [a protest]. At some point, it turns from stating disdain for what’s going on and it needs to go toward finding solutions to the problems that I think are widely recognized. They need great solutions coming from great leaders coming from different parts of the country. I think that opportunity has presented itself, and now it’s time for somebody to step, or collaborate, and bring those great solutions so that we can be the amazing country that I think we are.”
The national anthem has pretty much been a non-issue in the NHL to date where many games feature two anthems rather than just the "Star-Spangled Banner", but it was interesting timing to see the Pittsburgh Penguins officially accept their White House invitation on Sunday as the NFL national anthem activity was playing out in real time.