Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown became the first NHL player to protest racial injustice during the national anthem Saturday and has been inundated with racist messages and threats since.
Brown raised his fist during the national anthem before Tampa Bay’s game against Florida to protest police brutality. According to NBC Sports, it’s the first instance in which an NHL player has protested during the anthem.
Brown revealed he was the target of death threats after the game on Twitter, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., to explain his actions: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“First, I would like to thank those for their overwhelming support not only from family, friends, and fans; some who I know and who I have never met before,” Brown wrote. “I also wanted to reiterate that this is not and has never been about the military or disrespecting the flag.”
“It is about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in this country,” he explained. “It is something that I as well as many others feel needs to be addressed. I love my country, but that doesn’t mean I cannot acknowledge that is is not perfect.”
“In my life, I have been through more than my fair share of racism both on and off the ice,” he said. “There comes a time when you cannot remain silent, hoping and wishing for a change. It takes much more.”
“We all see the world through our own eyes, but I hope that we can try to understand what others experience.”
Brown explained that he spoke with members of the military “to have an empathetic conversation about the demonstrations during the national anthem. I tried to use as much knowledge as possible to make an educated decision.”
“I know it may not sit well with everyone,” Brown said. “But to truly make change in this world, we must be able to be pushed outside of our comfort zone. We can’t just stick to the status quo. I want young minorities to see that what they may be going through is not being ignored by the hockey community.”
Brown also explained that he is not protesting the police, either.
“I have respect for those who put their life on the line to protect and serve their community,” he wrote. “I have had both negative and positive encounters with police officers so to say all police officers are bad would be false. Again, this is about bringing awareness to real issues and not changing the narrative.”
Brown revealed that his mentions on Twitter “prove why this topic must be talked about.”
“I have received racist remarks and death threats because they disagree with how I chose to raise awareness,” he said.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/Ql2vEFwl5E
— Jt brownov (@JTBrown23) October 8, 2017
While protesting racial injustice had been limited to several players in the NFL, President Trump’s tweets attacking the protesters have led to players in the MLB and NHL to protest as well. Just nine NFL players kneeled during the national anthem before Trump’s tweets. More than 200 players protested during the national anthem the Sunday after Trump attacked them.