In the immediate aftermath of raising his fist, Lightning forward J.T. Brown received death threats. Brown, in the eyes of some hockey fans, had broken the cardinal rule of combining sports and the vague concept of politics. For, in the NHL, the best player is a quiet player who keeps his head down, goes to the rink and doesn’t use his platform for anything other than league-sanctioned causes. The Twitter responses to Brown’s gesture were predictably split. “Looking at your Stats I would worry more about hockey !! Do your Bull Sh— on your on time not on my Dime,” said a user whose bio proudly referred to themselves as “deplorable." “Focus on hockey ... good god,” another wrote. The frenzy around Brown — and Sharks forward Joel Ward for deciding not to kneel — was massive. A bevy of stories were written by just about every major publication. By and large, the response was in support of Brown, one of the rare players of color in the NHL, using his status as a public figure to draw attention to issues of racial injustice, violence against people of color and police brutality. Brown’s protest had an immediate positive impact. It opened a dialogue between Brown and the Tampa Bay Police Department, allowing him the opportunity to work with local youth charities. Brown has even gone on ride-alongs with the department's officers. Throughout the protest, Brown had the support of this teammates, coaches and even owner Jeff Vinik, a prominent Republican fundraiser. Vinik’s unwavering public support, by Brown’s admission, shows that it’s possible the issue doesn’t need to be partisan.
The NHL is political, whether you like it or not
Sporting News | Dec 8