NHL reacts to protests, Donald Trump: Every team and player statement to date

Days after more than 200 NFL players either took a knee, linked arms or stayed in the locker room during pregame national anthems in a collective rebuke of President Donald Trump, who Friday suggested teams should "fire" players who protest social injustice by "disrespecting the flag," conversation about anthem demonstrations has spilled well into the NHL.

Trump's remarks, which extended this week into a virtual endorsement of "great anger" directed even at players who knelt in unity before the anthem, have been a hot topic across professional sports. All but a few NFL teams defended their players' right to protest for justice reform in public statements, a stark contrast to 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was one of the few players to warrant league support as he protested, and others touted their players' work in the communities to further conversations about injustice.

Trump, meanwhile, fired back with dozens of responses via Twitter after a separate online feud with the NBA -- after the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry wondered aloud whether his team should visit Trump in the White House, a tradition for championship teams, the president rescinded Curry's invitation and drew backlash from four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who said Curry wasn't going anyway.

Hockey may have been one of the last of the major pro sports to be entangled in Trump's dive into sports, but voices have since arisen on both sides of the spectrum. Here's a look at every important statement from NHL teams or players, including a pair who have not ruled out kneeling on ice during the anthem in 2017-18:

J.T. Brown, Tampa Bay Lightning forward: "I think there are just a lot of people banding together, trying to show unity, trying to show solidarity over an issue that a lot of people feel is being taken lightly," he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "I won't say no [to kneeling in protest]. I don't agree with [the president's] comments. As with anything, some people will agree; some people won't. I respect all the players for what they're doing, coming together."

Joel Ward, San Jose Sharks forward: "[Kneeling] is definitely something I wouldn't cross out," he said, according to the <em>Mercury News</em>. "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 ... It's just been part of life that you always have to deal with, so when people get into 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."

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets forward: "It's the First Amendment to our Constitution," he tweeted after Trump's condemnation of kneeling protests. "The first one! Regardless of how it makes you feel individually, these are literally the principles the U.S. was founded on. Come on, Mr. President."

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets defenseman: "I support what [Blake Wheeler] said," he told TSN 1290. "It's tough and an interesting time in America right now, but it's important that people talk about it. It's not easy to take a stand, but it's important to take a stand. For me, it just comes down to the respect aspect, and I think a lot of things [Trump]'s done is very disrespectful to a lot of different people on a lot of different levels. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to that, so I think it's courageous what Blake did and what a lot of athletes are doing ... To call football players 'son of a [explicit]' and 'privileged,' I don't think any athlete really agrees with that. It's tough to say that about people. That's not someone I like looking up to. I hope a lot of young kids don't look up to that and treat people that way."

Matt Hendricks, Winnipeg Jets forward: "Yeah, I would support teammates who take a knee," he told TSN 1290, adding that he would not personally do so. "It's not just the flag. That's not the issue for the others that choose to take a knee. It's a different reason, so I understand that."

Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders forward: "I think what the NFL players are doing is amazing," he said, according to <em>Newsday</em>. "It's good that they're all sticking together. I mean, I'm Canadian, so I don't have too much input on the matter itself. It will affect me living in the States, but the biggest thing is it's unfortunate that the message may have gotten lost a little. Now it's becoming a battle between the NFL and the president and originally [the protests] started because of police brutality and the mistreatment of different races."

Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner: "I have great respect for our players, and there are so many matters, particularly on social issues, that are a matter of individual belief and individual choice," he said, according to the Associated Press. "And I respect everybody's views on it. In the final analysis, people are going to have to decide what makes them comfortable."

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs forward: "To me, I don't know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I'd really look into doing because, to me, it's like a dishonor to the men and women who fight for that flag, that fight for the U.S.," he said, according to CBC. "[But] isn't that one of the Amendments? You have the right to say what you want."

Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs coach: "I think it's important to have freedom of speech," he said, according to TSN. "On the other side of that for me, [I have] a lot of friends in the military. When that National Anthem is played for me, that's an important thing, too. The great thing about the world is you get to make your own decisions. We are supposed to respect people who think different than us. Actually, it's a lot of fun when you talk to someone who thinks different than you do."

P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators defenseman: At a Nashville comedy club, he said he would "never" kneel during the anthem out of respect for the American flag, according to Yahoo! Sports.

David Backes, Boston Bruins forward: "My standpoint is that I'm standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I'm staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices," he said, according to CSN New England. "If I've got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I'm going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do ... There are better avenues and better methods to state [a protest]."

Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes coach: "I understand both sides," he said, according to The News & Observer. "I don't think anyone is truly trying to disrespect the flag, to be honest with you. I think people have too much pride in what's going on in their countries, and they just want to make it better, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Pittsburgh Penguins: "The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House," the team said in a statement released through the NHL. "Any agreement or disagreement with a president's politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways (than declining to visit the White House). However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit."

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins forward: "It's a great honor for us to be invited there," he said of the planned White House visit, according to Sporting News. He also told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "People have that right to not go, too. Nobody's saying they have to go. As a group, we decided to go. There hasn't really been a whole lot of discussion about it."

Georges Laraque, former NHL forward: "To me, it's an embarrassment that they're (the Penguins) going," he said of the team's planned visit with Trump, according to Sportsnet. "I know hockey's more conservative than other sports, but this time it's just wrong. I'm surprised the NHL didn't make a stand. When they go there, it's not going to look good. They'll get demolished. This is the last place the Stanley Cup should be."

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