"If any of my players sit on the bench during the National Anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game." - John Tortorella, Head Coach, Team USA
I've been in these internet streets long enough to know that the first people to have an opinion on an extremely polarizing issue are likely to be the most narrow-minded. It's no secret that those with the most simple, matter-of-fact stances on multilayered topics are always going to be the "loudest" when it comes to "voicing" them on the worldwide web. That's why I wasn't surprised when the instantaneous reaction to John Tortorella's holier-than-thou answer seemed to be one of widespread agreement. I was, however, a little shocked at how quick people were to shower him with praise like he's an American hero who just dropped the most influential, timeless quote since Herb Brooks was orchestrating miracles.
After all, what did the guy really say? What did he really risk by instituting a zero tolerance policy for sitting down during the National Anthem? Don't let the boldness of the comment fool you, because the only thing that John Tortorella potentially sacrificed with his radical take in an intricate racial debate is the availability of his 7th defenseman who happens to be the only black player on the team. Much like most things throughout his career, this chest thumping declaration is nothing more than a facade. Leave it to the guy that had covered up his deficiencies as a coach with excessive volume to start slamming the table in forbiddance of peaceful protest when the only person that would engage in that protest is a player that doesn't appear paramount to the team's success. I personal disagree with a hockey coach making a blanket statement about a player's reaction to an antiquated song determining his playing time, but there's no doubt it's an insanely easy statement to make when Patrick Kane and Zach Parise aren't exactly biracial equality activists. If you want kiss John Tortorella's feet for "taking a stand" AGAINST the freedoms granted to athletes by the country they are competing on behalf of then be my guest, but do so knowing that this was nothing more than an empty threat.
So now we have a situation where Dustin Byfuglien, the single African American player on a team full of white dudes, could potentially jeopardize his ability to participate in international competition if he sits down to bring awareness to a worthy cause? Correct me if I am wrong, but these gestures are being made in opposition of "oppression", right? Ya know, when you really think about it...well, you can fill in the blank...