Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers said he backs Joel Ward of the San Jose Sharks who said he "wouldn't cross out" kneeling for the anthem and that he experienced a lot of racism in hockey.
“I definitely back Wardo. I know Wardo very well,” Simmonds said according to Sam Carchidi of Philly.com. “What’s going on now is a shame. I definitely back his statements. It doesn’t mean I’m going to kneel, and it doesn’t mean I’m not going to kneel.”
Simmonds and Ward and two of about 30 black players in the NHL currently and their teams will face off on Oct. 4 to open their seasons. They are both from Scarborough, Ontario.
While discussing the possibility of kneeling for the anthem, Simmonds said that protesting during the anthem by kneeling is not about disrespecting the Army or the flag, but "it’s just the vehicle that’s being used to create a conversation about social inequality.”
If either Simmonds or Ward does decide to kneel for the anthem, the NHLPA will be behind them according to a memo sent to players Wednesday. David Fehr, the head of the NHLPA, said, "a player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves respect."
“You have to be really educated about it when you’re speaking, and that’s why I’m trying to speak carefully, because I’m not trying to send the wrong message," Simmonds said. "But for me, this is something that is obviously near and dear to my heart, because I have faced these social injustices and inequalities, so it’s a touchy situation.”