At the time, he was entering his seventh year of professional hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and was prepared for the possibility that his decision to protest peacefully could jeopardize his eighth.
A year earlier, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the anthem in a bid to raise awareness of the social and racial injustices occurring across the country, and Brown was starting to wonder if he would do the same.
He wrote about the experience – what led to his decision, and what happened afterward – in a powerful article posted to NHL.com on Friday.
“I had a choice. I could shut up and play hockey, or I could do something so loud the whole hockey community would hear me. Nothing will ever be accomplished if we all keep our heads down and our mouths shut. So during the national anthem in Sunrise, Florida, I raised my fist to protest police brutality and racism, ”Brown wrote. “In 2017, I had the opportunity to sacrifice myself for something bigger than hockey, and I knew I had to do it.
In the play, Brown also details his own life-long experience of being a black man playing predominantly white sport:
“I’ll be honest, most of the time we’re just teammates. We joke, we play video games, we play cards and we bet on the soccer game. Then there are times when I’m the only player to have asked for my credentials through arena security when I’m just trying to get to my locker room. Or when hotel security asks me to leave the hockey players alone and leave the hotel lobby while I am just waiting with my teammates for our bus.
“Let’s not forget the classic line that all black hockey players know all too well, ‘go play basketball’, which I heard during a top level hockey game from an opposing player,” writes -he. “I’ve worked hard all my life to prove my NHL membership, and when I did, I still remembered that I was a black man playing a white sport.
Brown wrote that he received death threats and hate messages online after raising his fist in 2017 – messages he still receives whenever he speaks out against racism.
“The backlash reinforced my belief that I had done the right thing. I know the hockey community, and in particular, the black community heard me recognize their pain and understood that I took an oath in this game to always fight for equality.
Now, as pro sports make their long-awaited return this summer, the stage is set not only for thrilling athletic feats in the quest for championship crowns, but for real, powerful and impactful conversations led by athletes and athletes. leaders using their platforms for good. .
After spending the 2019-20 campaign with AHL affiliate Minnesota Wild in Iowa, Brown will not be playing when his Minnesota teammates hit the ice this weekend, he continues to lead with his actions and words and sees promises in others in the NHL. Do the same thing.
“For the first time, I saw a glimpse of a League made up mostly of affluent white men speaking out against issues that were once ignored. It has been promising to see activism in the NHL progress, ”he wrote when he saw his white peers start to speak out in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in May. “The urgency for social change does not end as the roars of protests fade and disappear from our calendar. So whether you use your hands to donate, volunteer, hold placards as you walk in a protest, speak out online, or raise your fist in solidarity, we all have a responsibility to fight for equality. History cannot keep repeating itself.