The land of the free may soon become the home of the benched.
Team USA skaters who follow in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps by sitting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” will ride the bench under head coach John Tortorella at this month’s World Cup of Hockey.
Tortorella, the fiery former Rangers coach who is leading the U.S. squad during the two-week tournament in Toronto, told ESPN on Tuesday that players who take a seat during the national anthem can forget about representing their country on the ice.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” Tortorella said.
The Blue Jackets coach’s statement follows what has become a growing trend among American athletes kickstarted by Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback whose refusal to rise during the anthem at a preseason game last month has ignited a firestorm of both criticism and support.
With all eyes on him during last week’s “Salute the Military” night in San Diego, Kaepernick, who is protesting police brutality against black Americans, modified his methods by kneeling rather than sitting. Teammate Eric Reid took a knee with the QB on the sidelines, which inspired U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe to follow suit on Sunday. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also sat out the anthem last week, and said he would continue to support the rival quarterback during the NFL regular season.
None of Tortorella’s 23 players have stated plans to sit out the anthem, but some have cautiously begun answering questions about their stance ahead of the event, which starts Sept. 17.
U.S. forward and Boston Bruin David Backes told USA Today that barring an injury or poor play, Tortorella shouldn’t have any reason to bench him.
“(Kaepernick) is going to do his thing, but I salute those who have stood for our country, who have died and given limbs and lives for us,” Backes said. “I will salute that flag every time it is raised.”
Devils goalie Cory Schneider, who is one of three netminders on the roster, said he and his teammates are focusing on national pride.
“It’s (Kaepernick’s) right to do, but everyone here is just concentrating on representing their country and their flag,” Schneider said, according to USA Today.
Defiance of Tortorella’s decree, however, could result in more than just a warming of the bench. The passionate coach is notorious for barking at players and members of the media. He even served a 15-day suspension with the Canucks in 2014 after he charged the Flames’ locker room and challenged opposing skaters during intermission.
Jake Becker via nydailynews.com | Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
It seems that the leftist actions recently in the USA has prompted John to even have to say that to his crew. Don’t let the leftist forces strip away patriotism from us! Stand proud for your anthem!