Sharks' Ward considering kneeling for national anthem
San Jose Sharks veteran Joel Ward has not made a decision whether to take a knee during the national anthem this NHL season, but it is something he "would not cross out".
Ward, 36, is one of around 30 African-American players in the NHL and has experienced racial injustice both on and off the ice. It is one of the reasons the Sharks veteran wears number 42 in honour of Jackie Robinson.
After netting a series-clinching goal during the 2012 play-offs in Boston, Ward received death threats and racially charged insults. He has been aware of racism since he was a child when he was one of the "only black kids in the whole arena".
"I've dealt with it a lot," Ward told the Mercury News. "I've had a few things that have happened to me that you could say are not the norm. I've been singled out at different events. I've been pulled over. I've dealt with racism right to my face.
"It's just been part of life that you always have to deal with, so when people get into [Colin] Kaepernick and some of these other guys, saying that they're disrespecting the flag, it's not about just that. It's about creating awareness about what people, like myself, go through on a day-to-day basis, whether it's going to the mall or whatever."
No NHL player has knelt during the national anthem to date, but three players did express support for the current demonstrations in the NFL and MLB. Winnipeg Jets team-mates Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba both offered up their support, as did Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown.
Ward may not have decided what he is going to do just yet, but taking a knee is certainly an option.
"It's definitely something I would not cross out," Ward said. "I've experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence.
"I haven't really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn't say no to it."