John Tortorella caused quite the stir Tuesday with his vow to bench any player who would not stand for the National Anthem. If you thought time would soften his stance, well then you don't know Tortorella.
"I'm not backing off," Tortorella told reporters after the Team USA's practice Wednesday.
Scott Burnside of ESPN described Tortorella as "taken aback Wednesday by the reaction to his comment." This certainly is not the first time Tortorella's comments have caused a stir, but there's more to the story on why he feels so strongly.
The head coach of Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, Tortorella has a son in the U.S. Army Special Forces who is currently deployed in Afghanistan in his third tour. As one would expect, that is something that seems to be weighing heavily on the coach's mind.
Tortorella said his son's service w Army Rangers has "changed my language." No longer does he describe hockey games as "wars" or "battles."— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) September 4, 2016
Tortorella further clarified his stance on the anthem, saying he was not saying players could not protest or express their beliefs, but that he felt disrespecting the anthem and the flag was, in his opinion, a step too far.
"Listen, we're in a great country because we can express ourselves," Tortorella said. "And I am not against expressing yourselves. That's what's great about our country. We can do that. But when there are men and women that give their lives for their flag, for their anthem, have given their lives, continue to put themselves on the line with our services for our flag, for our anthem, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries for these people that give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there's no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you're trying to make a point.
"It is probably the most disrespectful thing you can do as a U.S. citizen is to bring that in. Because that's our symbol. All for [expressing] yourself. That's what's so great. Everybody does. But no chance when it comes to the flag and the anthem. No chance."
Reaction to Tortorella's initial comments has been somewhat mixed. Many players seem to be supportive of the coach's stance while others were quick to voice their opposition.
Wouldn't benching a black man for taking a stance only further prove Kap's point of oppression? But hey 🐸☕️ https://t.co/p6aUjXYlq4— Jt brownov (@JTBrown23) September 7, 2016
Team USA will play its first pretournament game on Friday against Team Canada in Columbus, Ohio.
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