USA World Cup hockey coach: Players 'would not play' if they sat during national anthem

Posted at 3:32 PM, Sep 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 18:39:17-04

John Tortorella, who will coach Team USA during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey that begins later this week, made headlines when he told ESPN he wouldn't tolerate any of his players following in Colin Kaepernick's footsteps by refusing to stand for the American national anthem.

"If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game," Tortorella told ESPN on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the 58-year-old Boston native didn't back down from that stance.

"If I was ever involved in a situation where someone is trying to make a point -- and they have the perfect right to do that -- but to disrespect our flag and anthem, as I said yesterday, they would not play," Tortorella told ESPN.

"If that ever happened, there's no question, it's just not right. And it's not black, white, blue, red -- it has nothing to do with the politics of all this. It's just not right."

See also: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians weighs in on Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during anthem

Tortorella said he respects Americans' First Amendment right to freedom of speech and protest, but he doesn't respect the idea of athletes refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

"You can protest. You have a right to protest. You can speak your mind. That is one of the nicest things we have, living in the United States," he said.

"But I look at that and I look at our flag, our national anthem, which is the symbol of us. How many people have lost their lives to protect that, that symbol of a U.S. citizen, of that flag and anthem, and continue (to lose) their lives -- people with traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries, that are doing the real things?"

Tortorella, who also coaches the Columbus Blue Jackets and previously coached the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, said he's all for athletes taking a stand -- as long as they stand for the national anthem, as well.

"Protest. Speak your mind. But to drag an anthem in and a flag in? There's no chance. There are other ways to do it," he said. "That is just totally disrespectful for people -- their families are upside-down, and the loss of life that goes into this, and protecting us and our flag and anthem... I'm not backing off of that.

"This is our country. Our people are fighting for our country, our flag and our anthem. This shouldn't come into the equation at all. There are other ways of doing things."

Tortorella and Team USA will face Canada in its first World Cup of Hockey matchup on Friday.