A is for Anthem

So let me get this straight. The NHL, or at least Gary Bettman, thinks it’s important that players respect the anthem, but not that they play for anthem. Well, unless there’s some profit it in it for the owners. So much so, that they were willing to try to use attending the 2018 Winter Olympics as a way to extort concessions out of the players.

Yeah, trying to use players’ patriotism and desire to represent their country against them is not disrespectful at all.

The fact is, Bettman’s words on this, as on so many things, ring hollow. On issue after issue after issue, the only thing that the NHL has shown it respects is the almighty dollar. And there is no reason to believe this any different.

Here’s what Bettman had to say on the topic back in May:

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Bettman is always willing to attribute the NHL’s position on an issue to his interpretation of what the fans think or want. And hey, that’s his prerogative. I mean, he’s the Commissioner, after all. But coincidentally enough, the fans always seem to agree with the NHL in a way that benefits the league financially. Go figure.

In reality, however, I’m not so sure that fans would agree. When it comes to being able to assess the benefits of a decision, it appears that who benefits affects how quantifiable that decision is:

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But more on that topic next time.

For now, let’s stick to the issue at hand, which is whether political expression has any place in the world of professional sports in general, and the NHL in particular.

That the Pittsburgh Penguins chose to issue a statement confirming that they would accept to visit the Trump White House smack in the middle of the current controversy is in itself a political act.

For all the attempts to frame this as an apolitical activity, and simply a show of respect for the institution and a respect for tradition, the fact remains that America remains a very divided nation, politically, and there is no room for a middle ground. At least not any more.

The league, Penguins, and even Sidney Crosby, can claim they are staying out of this, but just by visiting the White House they will be used as political props by Trump. In fact, he’s started already:

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Even just staying quiet about this would have been a less political move than issuing a statement confirming that they will attend.

As for respecting tradition, let’s be clear here. The Stanley Cup Champion has only been visiting the White House since 1991. If the NHL was truly respectful of tradition, they would have kept the division names that honoured some of the greats that built the league, instead of the ludicrous mishmash of geographical names that have barely any relation to the actual location of the teams within them. But again, more on that another time.

And it’s not just the league or the Penguins organization that have, ironically, tried to take the knee on this one.

The Penguins players and coaching staff have trotted out the same line about not taking a stance, but respecting the right of “others” to do so.

Gee, that must be nice. Wonder what the organization from ownership all the way down to the players have in common that allows them the luxury of doing this:

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In essence, the prevailing attitude among the very white, very privileged people that make up the vast majority of NHL players, coaches, and management is, “I’m good bro, but you go ahead.”

Not only is this putting the burden of demanding change to injustices in American (and let’s be clear, Canadian) society on those with the least power to affect change, but in the context of hockey culture, which already tries its best to stamp the exhibition of any kind of “personality” from its players, this attitude makes it even harder for players to take a stand.

Nevertheless, some players have spoken up and shown that they understand the real issues at stake here, which have nothing to do with the anthem or the flag. They actually raise the issue of societal injustices and the need to address them. In fact, it turns out that you actually can decline to protest during the anthem without having to cop out:

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That is in stark contrast to platitudes about respecting the institution, or honouring tradition, or recognizing the rights of others to protest.

All that being said, I do want to end on one further point. Why, exactly, do we play the national anthems before sporting events other than providing an yet another opportunity for celebrity has-beens to humiliate themselves? What do anthems have to do with anything that is happening out on the ice, when it’s not an international competition?

And it turns out that maybe I’m not alone in wondering this:

So if Gary Bettman really is taking the lead on this from what the fans expect when they come to a game, maybe he should rethink his whole strategy:

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  • Peggy McIntosh

    The NBA and NFL are run like slave plantations where black labour produces white wealth.

    The only reason the NHL, PGA & ATP are not dominated by black athletes like the other sports is that there is a global economic system in place for white on top and black on the bottom.

    This is why the Kemetic roots of hockey are always ignored and/or white supremacists pretend Ancient Egyptians were not black.

    Of course, white liberals know all of this.

    And while China and India are on track to return as the two dominant economies in the world, white people would rather practice white supremacy than learn to compete.


    • KCasey

      Hate to break it to you Peggy, but the leagues you have unfairly labled slave labour leagues are dominated by african americans for a multitude of other reasons than just simply making money for ‘the rich white devil’. Have you ever considered that almost every single player in the NFL and NBA got there through a full ride in collage….where they earn top level degrees in any field they desire. And they only get that full ride to the prestigious schools by being undeniably talented at the sport they clearly loved and devoted themselves too. The players in these leagues could have chose to do a normal 9-5 career and earned a pay cheque like the rest of us….but ya know…they kind of got offered multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts do something they love and something the rest of us do for fun on the weekends. So to say they are ‘slaves’ being exploited by the evil white empire idea that your trying to create is just simply insane to the highest degree. Dont get me wrong I know that there are racist white people in this world. Theres racists and ethinicity in this world…but you labelling every single white person as a racist is in of itself racist. So not only are you a racist but your a hypocrite too. However I dont claim to know you so wont assume to know your thoughts and emotions but just know that the words and ideas your sharing on here are a far cry from the message that african americans are trying to express in regards to the issues really at hand. God bless you and may you one day be enlightened enough to speak on matters of this magnitude with a open heart and mind.

      • TheRealPB

        Roughly 2% of junior and college athletes make it to the pros. For basketball and especially football, it is not a new criticism that race plays a huge role — Anthony Prior (a former NFL player) wrote an excellent book called The Slave Side of Sunday in which it’s not just about the fact that most owners, GMs and coaches are white and players are black, but the system in the US (which really has no parallel in Canada) reinforces racist practices (including in the south the common use of “boy” and “master” in player-coach relations)

    • Larionov18

      What a complete tool you are. China practices Chinese supremacy in China. India practices Indian supremacy in India. Black people are treated like dirt in east Asia and the Middle East. White Westerners are the most tolerant people on the planet.

  • myshkin

    It sure would be nice if the Canucks were in this moral dilemma.

    Hockey players put their heads and teeth on the line every night, let the social activists get off their arse and protest rather ragging on the guys doing the heavy lifting.

    • Roy

      This isn’t about the anthem, which is just a song. Or respecting a flag (a colonialist piece of cloth). It isn’t disrespectful to sit during an anthem (I’ve done this all my life). You can’t disrespect a flag, it’s an inanimate object. You can, however, publicly differentiate yourself from observing a meaningless tradition to draw people’s attention from blind patriotism to those who suffer from inequal treatment under and by the law. Saying this is about the anthem or disrespect immediately whitewashes the actual issue, which is systemic racism, from the lack of marginalised representation in media to the incarceration rates of indigenous peoples in Canada, to the blatant murder of unarmed black *people* (not “blacks”) by police in both Canada and the United States.

      All the writers and commenters on this site have done is turn this into a white discussion. Shut up and listen for once, please also quit with the clickbait pointless articles on the subject, unless you plan to actually discuss the actual reasons why black players are sitting down *before* writing another sentence on what white owners and executives might hypothetically think about it.

  • TheRealPB

    I don’t usually agree with you but I think you are completely right on this one. The fact that this “controversy” has devolved into this ludicrous game of “patriot-or-not” is yet another sad commentary on the inanity of political discourse in the world today. Yes, it’s all about the anthem — because I know when I go to a sports bar before every game all the people inside go silent, stand up with their hands over their hearts and sing along. And I remember when we questioned the patriotism of Canadians and Americans a few years ago during the playoffs when NHL fans in Chicago and Vancouver and so many other cities lustily booed our erstwhile closest neighbor’s anthems. And I remember how old the tradition is that NFL teams stand for the anthem — why dating all the way back to 2009! I guess everyone before that wasn’t a patriot. Oh, and I remember back when they started to bring military pageantry and flags out onto the field — right after 9/11 when the Pentagon began paying NFL teams to basically advertise during the pre-game and half-time shows. But why bother with such little details? We can just say that like voter fraud and terrorist refugees, anthem betrayers are rife all across the US. That is unless we look for, you know, evidence…

    The always excellent politics-and-sports analytics site 538 has some great analysis of NFL fan bases and their stance on the anthem “controversy”.

  • Peggy McIntosh

    It’s interesting that most “liberals” are down with Marxism when it comes to supporting NHL players during lockouts/health issues/CTE because the players are the talent, labour, entertainment etc.

    It’s “workers of the world unite” and such.

    But when white supremacist organizations such as the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, music industry etc practice white supremacy to prevent black people from controlling the economics behind their talent/labour/entertainment, everybody gets quiet or plays dumb.

    Because white supremacists know that hockey, tennis & golf would be no different than all the other sports where black athletes dominate in spite of the hurdles put in front of them.

    And if white supremacist immigration laws didn’t limit the number of African immigrants allowed into Canada and America, the field would be even more tilted.


  • Peggy McIntosh

    As yesterday was the last true day of summer, we probably won’t see white people trying to tan in public for a few months.

    Fun fact: Hitler was uncomfortable wearing lederhosen in public because he felt his legs looked too white.

    His heir apparent Donald Trump has found a pumpkin juice solution to that problem.



  • Peachy

    On the plus side, the recent spate of articles CA has put out on the anthem has replaced our tired old trolls with new ones, and they have white supremacist leanings! The new ones are kinda adorable, in a deplorable way.

  • TD

    The NHL and the NHLPA are partners now Graphic Comments. The players bargained the Olympics in the last CBA but not the current one. How is that extorting the players?

  • Rhodeniser

    Wow! Look at all the emotional leftists coming out of the woodwork. So many new profiles created for this one article. Where to begin?

    First of all, regarding Graphic Comments – excellent article, for the most part. But here’s the thing: ”white privilege” doesn’t exist. There’s no law which holds white people to a different standard than non-white people in either the USA or Canada (except, obviously, for affirmative action policies which hold black people to a lower intellectual standard under the faux guise of sympathy. But bigotry isn’t really bigotry if it comes from low expectations, right?). If there is an attitude among non-white people (or masochistic white people) that the non-coloured are held in a higher light by society, maybe those same people should take a good hard look at why they hold those opinions. Maybe they should stop seeing themselves as victims when there is no systemic way in which they are being victimised. Perhaps the real ”privilege” of being white is the privilege to not have a 75% chance of being born in a single-parent household (which even the far-left Brookings Institute has listed as the primary reason that young, black American men eventually end up committing vastly more crime than any other demographic). Food for thought.
    Also, I love how your comment about NHL ownership, coaching staff and players having the ”luxury” (call it freedom) of choosing to be apolitical by don’t of whiteness conveniently ignores the presence of Dustin Byfuglien, Trevor Daley, P.K. Subban, Anthony Duclair, Ryan Reaves, Pierre-Edouarde Bellemare, Joel Ward, J.T. Brown, Jarome Iginla, Seth Jones, Devante Smith-Pelly, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Okposo, etc., etc.
    Everybody has the ”luxury” of choosing to not take a stance or to take a stance. It’s called living in a free society where your actions aren’t judged according to the level of melanin in your skin.

  • Rhodeniser

    Peggy McIntosh – first of all, your name gives off the impression of a redhead with near-translucent skin. But I’ve known many black people with Gaelic or Anglicized Gaelic names. It’s extremely common in the Caribbean. So either you’re a masochist or a racist.
    Regarding your comment about sports leagues being like slave plantations….I would agree with you, unless you consider that every player in those professional leagues is there voluntarily, can leave whenever they choose, and is being paid millions of dollars every year to play the game they grew up playing. But yeah, aside from that, the NBA has ‘Antebellum’ written all over it. Regarding the ‘Kemetic roots of hockey’….every culture has had stick and ball games. Hurley, cricket, etc. It’s extremely common because all you need are sticks and balls. Many peoples separated by vast distances have arrived at the same conclusion independently and at different periods of history: namely, that if you hit those balls with those sticks, you can create a competition. Also, Ancient Egyptians never settled Europe or the Americas, and no, they weren’t Sub-Saharan: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:_pczpoZvx0sJ:bigthink.com/philip-perry/were-the-ancient-egyptians-black-or-white-scientists-now-know+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca.
    Finally, if your standard of a “white supremacist” society is a society in which black people happen to be doing worse than some other demographics, you have fully immersed yourself in a victim mentality. The fact that you consider the NFL, NBA, NHL etc. to be white supremacist organizations when a huge proportion of players in these leagues, and a sizeable number of coaches and even some owners are black, speaks to the level of logic you can muster. There are no hurdles put in front of black people disallowing their entry into hockey. Have you ever considered that hockey is a traditional sport in regions and countries which do not contain many black people. Canada, rural Massachusetts & Minnesota, Sweden, Russia and Finland? Your charge that there are white supremacist laws barring Africans from entering Canada is hilarious. 6% of Ottawans are black, nearly 8% of Torontonians are black, and the trend goes far higher in some areas of Montreal and the GTA.

  • Rhodeniser

    TheRealPB – if most owners and coaches are white, and most players are black, that’s because more black players than white players pursue coaching jobs after they retire. It’s called personal choice. Of course, this isn’t a rule – see Doc Rivers, Dwayne Casey, Maurice Cheeks, Byron Scott…I could go on. I can’t speak to Anthony Prior’s personal experience, but if this “master-boy” practice is widespread it certainly hasn’t ruffled any feathers. I just Googled it and nothing came up. I can only assume it’s not really a thing.

  • Rhodeniser

    Roy – is a flag a piece of ‘’colonialist cloth’’ (our current flag was designed five years after First Nations people’s voting rights were finally federally recognized, by the way, so I don’t where that buzzword came from) or is it an inanimate object with no meaning? You say both, but these two statements are mutually exclusive. The flag is either symbolic of something (perhaps many things, good and bad) or it isn’t. Also, there is no systemic racism in Canada or the United States. There just isn’t. There are no laws on the books which unfairly discriminate against black people or non-white people in general. If you want to understand why so many young black American men and young Cree, Ojibwe and Mohawk men find themselves in the slammer, you really ought to look at crime statistics and the crime REPORTING statistics that match them: https://www.amren.com/the-color-of-crime/. And finally, to speak to the large numbers of young black men being shot by police….the majority of those black men have been armed or actively attacking the police in some way. At least a sizeable minority of black people shot by police have been shot by black police officers. In Baltimore, which is a huge outlier in terms of these types of incidents, the mayor is black, the city council is majority black, the police force is majority non-white, the police chief is black, etc. Where does the ‘’systemic discrimination” come into play?