Will Wayne Simmonds kneel during the National Anthem when the Flyers open the season against the San Jose Sharks next week? Won’t he? There’s been a lot of chatter about it over the past 24 hours.
Well, Simmonds has a message for all those who want to talk about the will he/won’t he suspense.
You’re focusing on the wrong thing.
My colleague Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer did a nice job yesterday talking to Simmonds about social injustice.
This followed Sam being lambasted on Twitter for expressing his own views on the issue Sunday while covering the Flyers preseason game in New York.
It’s an argument that is fueling this country, being egged on by President Trump, and one that frankly, has completely gone down the rabbit hole because it isn’t leading to real discussion about the very real problem of social injustice, but rather is spurring more entrenched divisiveness.
Now we move on to another day of this conversation. With Simmonds leaving his decision for next week up in the air to Sam yesterday, he was the focus of attention from a media scrum again today.
This time, my colleague John Boruk from CSNPhilly.com was asking the questions.
And this time, Simmonds wasn’t shy about telling John, and the rest of the gathered media, that if we’re going to talk about who is kneeling and who isn’t, that we’re focused on the wrong thing.
A transcription is below (which doesn’t do Simmonds’ tone justice), but here is the relevant audio (courtesy Philadelphia Flyers PR, starts around 45 seconds):
CSN: Wayne You talked yesterday about some of the issues going on in this country and some of the protests. Where do you stand –
Simmonds: Which part?
CSN: Being Canadian…
CSN: A lot of these things you feel extend to both Canada and the United States?
Simmonds: Is that a question?
CSN: The feelings… you see, not only where you are from but down here as well?
Simmonds: Definitely. I think there’s social inequalities everywhere and the United States is dealing with that right now. The stance is that it’s not right and something should be done about it. Instead of finding something to do about it, everyone is talking about kneeling. I think that’s sad. I think everyone should focus on what the real issue is and stop focusing on the kneeling and actually talk about the hard questions instead of figuring out who is going to kneel and who is not going to kneel.
CSN: A lot of people want to know, and you sort of left it up in the air, during the anthem would some kind of statement be made –
Simmonds: That’s my point, right there. You’re asking me the same question again. Sam asked me this yesterday and I told Sam before he even publishes his article that it’s not about the kneeling, but everyone is going to try to continue to make it about the kneeling, so if you guys want to talk about kneeling I’m not here to talk about kneeling. I’m here to talk about the bigger issues. If you don’t want to talk about the bigger issues, then don’t ask me about kneeling.
CSN: Back to the bigger issues –
Simmonds: The bigger issues are social inequality in life. The things that happen to the black youth. All the shootings and everything that has gone on in this country for numerous amount of years. Being Canadian, it’s happened to me in Canada as well, so it expands outside the U.S. but the issue right now is in the U.S. so, we are trying to find answers and get conversations sparked and bring everyone together so that it’s more united and not that everyone loves you or everyone hates you. At this point, I think it’s either black or white and it shouldn’t be black or white. I think there’s a lot of issues in this country that people aren’t taking into consideration. All anyone wants to talk about right now is why they’re kneeling, if you’re disrespecting the army or the national anthem, or whatever it might be. People fail to see what the real issue might be and why Colin Kaepernick actually started the protest. He actually talked to an Armed Forces member, who was on CNN last night and discussed all these issues on a panel as to why he used the National Anthem as a vehicle to get this out.
CSN: Are these issues being addressed in Canada where they’re not being addressed here in the United States?
Simmonds: No, but it’s an American issue right now. We’re talking about the United States of America, we’re not talking about Canada. I’m a black male living in the United States for the majority of the last 10 years. I definitely understand what everyone’s protesting about and I’m definitely supporting the cause.
Wayne Simmonds is one of only roughly 30 black players in the NHL. He has faced some of racial adversity before – he had a banana thrown at him at a preseason game in London, Ontario as a member of the Flyers six years ago. The person who tossed it got a $200 fine and was not charged with a hate crime.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol wouldn’t comment on Simmonds’ words or his potential for a protest, nor would he say if he or the Flyers franchise has implemented a rule or taken a stance one way or the other about protesting.
“It’s a bigger conversation,” Hakstol said. “I have the utmost respect for Simmer and for how strong he is within his convictions. I’m going to continue to have those conversations with Simmer in private.”
He was asked a couple more times, in different ways, about the team’s stance on the issue but declined to elaborate further.