First, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown raised his fist during the national anthem. Then, thanks to the efforts of the Tampa Police Department, his eyes have been opened.
As a result, Brown, one of the about 30 black NHL players, has announced he will no longer protest before games.
“When I began my peaceful demonstration, I wanted to bring awareness to police brutality, racial injustice and inequalities. I also wanted to show that these issues were not going unnoticed by the hockey community. I am incredibly thankful for my team’s support,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I understand that this issue cannot be resolved overnight, nor can I do it alone.”
“I am done raising my fist,” he wrote. “I am now using this support, opportunity and platform to call out everyone who agreed or disagreed with me to help by sharing suggestions, continuing respectful conversations and looking for ways they too can help make a difference in their community.
Here’s what’s next. pic.twitter.com/IoXeUkacUZ
— Jt brownov (@JTBrown23) October 18, 2017
Brown, like many NFL players, framed his protest as an effort to focus the spotlight on racial inequality and police brutality. After he did so, interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan invited him to attend a simulation to learn what police officers actually face.
“You see what they go through,” Brown told the Tampa Bay Times. “I have a better understanding, I can guarantee you that.”
Brown was taken through a course offered to citizens in which he participated in mock traffic stops and dealt with a domestic violence report. He also took part in a computer simulation designed to help improve officers’ judgment regarding when to shoot and when not to do so.
“It was stressful,” Brown said.
Dugan said he was glad Brown took advantage of the invitation.
“Hats off to him for being open-minded to come out there,” he said.
The police chief noted that he didn’t talk about what Brown did, only what his officers do.
“I never did discuss with him about race and his fist,” Dugan said. “He can do whatever he wants to do. As a police department, we’ve always been supporting of people protesting peacefully. I just wanted to give him a different perspective. Not trying to change his mind, just wanted to educate him.”
Dugan praised Brown for having the commitment to do more than talk.
“It’s a credit to J.T.,” Dugan said. “He could have just raised his fist and spewed some stuff in the paper and not really acted on it. He’s probably going to do a ride-along with us in the streets when he can.”
“Together we can help teach these kids valuable life lessons,” Brown wrote. “I will also continue to explore new ways to get involved in the community to help build bridges and create rewarding relationships.”