CLOSE

SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s hockey insider Kevin Allen details the story lines that you should pay attention to this season.
USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward said Thursday he will not kneel during the national anthem, rationalizing that he wants to focus on “moving progress forward” outside the hockey arena. 

Ward, a Canadian and one of only about 20 black players in the NHL, tweeted a thorough message explaining his reasoning. He noted that he spent a lot of time considering a protest akin to the 250-plus NFL players who took a knee this past weekend in response to President Donald Trump’s condemning comments at an Alabama rally.

“As a black man, I have experienced racism both inside and outside of the sporting world,” he wrote. “Make no mistake that racism exists and that people of color are treated differently on a day-to-day basis.”

MORE NHL:

But Ward said he felt “the original message that was trying to be communicated has been lost. The focus has shifted to the act of kneeling itself or to a protest of the flag or the military. What are we really talking about here? …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. 

“Let our collective focus be on bridging the gap between communities — on working to heal generations of unequal treatment of people of color in the United States of America — and not turning our backs on that which is hard to face head on.”

Until Ward, no NHL player had discussed publicly that he might take a knee during the anthem. No players have taken a knee during the preseason.

Ward had the support of his coach, Peter DeBoer, and the entire Sharks organization had he decided to kneel. “The San Jose Sharks deeply respect each individual’s Constitutional right to freedom of speech and personal expression,” the Sharks said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

The NHL’s rule book does not address a player’s responsibilities during the anthem and a person with direct knowledge of the league’s polices who is not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday that there are no other guidelines currently in place ahead of the start of the NHL regular…