Where Toronto athletes stand on ‘the kneel’

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick /

The national anthem protest that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started over a year ago, has now spread across the sports world.

After US President Donald Trump suggested that NFL owners should “fire” players that kneel during the American national anthem, athletes in all four of North America’s major leagues have chimed in on the matter.

Toronto athletes have begun speaking out – here are some of their responses.

Toronto Raptors

Monday was media day for the NBA, with the preseason less than a week away, and all the Raptors were out.


Toronto’s all star shooting guard was part of the demonstration last preseason in Vancouver when the entire team locked arms prior to a game against Golden State.

"“I feel no player is trying to disrespect nobody, no flag, or anything like that, but we seem to be the ones to get all the disrespect from our ‘so-called leader,’ it sucks when you see that,” Derzan told reporters on Monday. “Especially when you have kids that you wanna raise in a country that’s supposed to be the greatest country in the world.But you’ve got your president on Twitter more than a 12-year-old saying the most outrageous things (about) people trying to do something right. It’s crazy.”"


The point guard that signed a three year deal with the Raptors in July, is no stranger to speaking out on controversial topics related to the President.

Lowry referred to Trump’s proposed travel ban in January as “bullshit.”

On the President’s latest twitter campaign, Lowry suggested it was childish.

"“People say stay in your own lane but I think ‘our lane,’ as human beings, is to be human beings,” he said during media day. “I think it’s unfortunate – (Trump’s) the leader of the most powerful country in the world and he’s calling men SOBs?”"


The Raptors GM gave his full support to his players.

"“I’m 110 per cent behind our players,” Ujiri said. “I can guarantee you one thing, nobody’s getting fired here. They have a platform. There’s nobody getting fired.”"

He also referenced the current dispute between the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and the President.

"“If we one day win a championship. I think we’ll be fine with (Canadian Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau.”"


Toronto’s coach who grew up in the American South is concerned about the political landscape of his country.

"“That’s what the U.S. was built on, protest. I came through the (civil rights movement in the) ’60s and ’70s and it’s eerily getting back to that if we’re not careful,” the Kentucky native said. ” And that’s why we want to take away the divisive words and let’s be inclusive.”"

Toronto Maple Leafs 

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While the Raptors seemed to have a united front in favour of the “right to protest,” the Maple Leafs had varying opinions.


Matthews made headlines for scoring a hat trick in Toronto’s 5-1 win over Montreal on Monday. But earlier in the day he weighed into the anthem debate.

The 20-year-old responded by first acknowledging that the First Amendment gives every American the right to speak their mind. But he himself does not agree with the protests.

"“To me I don’t know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I’d really look into doing because to me it’s like a dishonour to the men and women who fight for that flag, that fight for the US,” the Arizona native said. “I don’t think I’d be one of the people to take part in that.”"


The Maple Leafs other American star was asked about the issue on Monday.

"“I think the great thing about the US is you have the right to speak your mind,” JVR said. “I saw Blake Wheeler‘s tweet the other day, I thought he had a good point.It’s kind of crazy, we’re talking about our President going back-and-forth with people on social media.”"


The Leafs coach didn’t take a stance, rather settling for a more diplomatic approach, acknowledging both sides.

"“I think it’s important to have freedom of speech,” the Saskatoon-native said. “On the other side of that, for me, (I have a) lot of friends in the military and when that national anthem’s played, to me that’s an important thing too.”"


The London, Ontario native is no stranger to talking out about Trump’s politics. A practicing Muslim, when asked about Trump’s proposed travel-ban during last year’s presidential election Kadri said, “He’s pretty delusional.”

But on the anthem protest Kadri took an unique approach suggesting he’d want a team consensus  before any action was taken.

"“The NFL, and hockey, baseball, basketball (are) all about team sports, team bonding, and team values,” the Leafs first round 2009 Draft pick said. “So I’d like to see – if one person does it, everyone does it.”"

Toronto Blue Jays 

Of North America’s big four leagues the MLB has probably been the most silent on the matter of anthem protests.

In between Adam Jones claiming “baseball is a white man’s sport” last September up until last Saturday when Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem, baseball players had not really weighed in on the matter.

But since Trump’s tweet-storm some of the boys of summer are speaking up.


The Jays 27 year old righty is in a unique position to speak on the matter, having served in the US Army for two and a half years.

"“The majority of the athletes who are kneeling have made it very, very clear that they mean no disrespect and that they love their country and that they’re not disrespecting the flag or the service members,” the graduate of the US Military Academy said. “They’re using their platform to try and create some type of awareness of a social problem. I support that.“Whether or not I agree with it or not, and I don’t believe I’m educated enough on the issue to make a stand either way, I think they absolutely have a right to do that.”"

Toronto teams are clearly not isolated from American politics, as many of their stars are form the States and they routinely play south of the border.

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This topic is unlikely to go away and with the NHL and NBA seasons about to start, we could see many new athletes jump in.