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Joel Ward opens up about experiencing racism and his reasons for standing during the anthem

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The San Jose Sharks forward had previously been considering taking a knee in an upcoming NHL game.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward has clarified his comments on taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. On Tuesday, the The Mercury News’ Paul Gackle reported that Ward was considering taking a knee in an upcoming NHL game, becoming one of the first hockey players to think about doing so.

Thursday afternoon, Ward clarified his comments on Twitter in a heartfelt message on his experiences as a black man in today’s America.

In the message, Ward has now stated that he will not kneel during the national anthem in an upcoming NHL game.

Although I fully support those who before me have taken the lead in bringing awareness to these issues, I will not kneel during the national anthem like my brothers have done.

The NFL has been at the forefront of this form of activism, after an intense weekend of protests across the league was sparked by comments made by President Trump calling for the firing of kneeling players. The protests started last year with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Questions of activism spread to the NHL after the Penguins reiterated their commitment to attending their Stanley Cup celebration at the White House next month.

Ward is one of just approximately 30 black NHL players across a league of over 700 participants. The 36-year-old veteran has stated that he is no stranger to discrimination and that he has “experienced racism both inside and outside of the sporting world.”

While a handful of NHL players and coaches have spoken out on the subject, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hendricks, and Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets have been the most vocal.

Also making their voices known this past week have been Nashville’s P.K. Subban and Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds. The outspoken Predators’ defenseman has said he will “never” kneel for the national anthem, falling in line with Nashville’s commitment to not participate in activism before games.

Simmonds, on the other hand, has said he has thought about protesting during the national anthem.

So far, the most vocal NHLers on this topic have been non-white players, as both the Islanders’ Josh Ho-Sang and Lightning’s J.T. Brown have come out with remarks on the intent of the protests. While their comments have been the most nuanced, it should not fall on the shoulders of hockey’s non-white players to hold this banner.

The NHL’s preseason winds down this weekend, as the league’s regular season begins on Wednesday, Oct. 4.