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Coach Vows To Bench Players Who Protest National Anthem

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In response to controversy over respecting the national anthem, USA World Cup of Hockey Coach John Tortorella has asserted he will not tolerate any national anthem protests from his team during the tournament.

The issue of respecting the anthem stemmed from San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, says Yahoo! Sports, who chose to sit for the national anthem during one NFL preseason game and kneel for another. Kaepernick explained his refusal to stand for the anthem as a protest against how he feels African Americans and minorities are treated in the United States, saying to NFL News "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

But Tortorella, whose son is deployed in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army Special forces, maintains that the American flag and national anthem should be sacrosanct. “I feel very strongly of being able to say what you want to say in your way about [being] upset with things. You’re dead on. You have your right to do that,” Tortorella told USA Today. “But to bring that flag and anthem into it and drag that down, no way.”

The National Hockey League does not have a plan in place should a player follow in the steps of Kaepernick in the upcoming World Cup, but has expressed athletes are "encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem" in an official statement. Tortorella, however, told ESPN’s Linda Crohn he takes the matter seriously, and if any of his players choose to sit in protest of the national anthem they will “sit there the rest of the game.”

"We're in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves.” he told ESPN. “But when there are men and women that give their lives for their flag, for their anthem … there's no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you're trying to make a point.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has neither refuted nor supported these claims, but said in a statement to The Columbus Dispatch instances of protest would be handled “on a case-by-case basis."

Sources: ESPN, USA Today, Yahoo! Sports, NFL News, The Columbus Dispatch / Photo credit: The Source

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