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Weatherby on Taking Knee During National Anthem Tonight



Credit: Mark Kuhlmann (Omaha)

San Jose Sharks prospect Jasper Weatherby and Ottawa Senators prospect Jacob Bernard-Docker both took a knee during the national anthem before the University of North Dakota’s season-opener.

This is thought to be the first such protest against racial injustice during an NCAA Division I men’s hockey game. However, it’s not a first for an NCAA Division I hockey game:

Weatherby explained his and Bernard-Docker’s intentions to the Grand Forks Herald yesterday: “I think change is uncomfortable for a lot of people. If this (demonstration) is uncomfortable for you, it’s a great opportunity to educate yourself and look inside and ask yourself, ‘Why does that upset me?’ and ‘Why is someone from my hometown doing this?’

“We hope the hockey community knows that we stand with people of color and we are not OK with the way people are being treated in this country.”

The game was played with no fans in attendance at Baxter Arena in Omaha, part of a three-week National Collegiate Hockey Conference “pod” event. After the tilt, a 2-0 shutout for top-ranked North Dakota over Miami of Ohio, Fighting Hawks head coach Brad Berry, forward Riese Gaber, and defenseman Matt Kiersted talked about Weatherby and Bernard-Docker’s statement.

The 2018 San Jose Sharks fourth-round pick also spoke with San Jose Hockey Now in an exclusive interview.

Jasper Weatherby

Jasper Weatherby, on if he was nervous about taking a knee:

Yeah, not really. Sometimes, when you do things that are just kind of true to who you are and what you believe in, the nerves aren’t really there at all.

I truly stood behind it and we explained it pretty well. It was obviously awesome having Jacob there.

To be honest, I didn’t have any fears or anything.

It was to draw awareness to a situation that has been going on for too long. We’re in favor of bringing awareness to that and hopefully sparking conversations with people who might be otherwise not able to have those uncomfortable conversations.

Weatherby, on if this is a one-time protest or if they will continue this season:

That’s a great question. There was a lot of discussion this summer from us, and for right now, we decided that it’s just going to be this one game.

It’s a message from us. We thought the one game would be a message to people and hopefully spark conversation.

Obviously, I’m fully in support of kneeling if people continue to choose to kneel. I’m not saying I won’t kneel again. But for the near future, we’re planning just on kneeling for the one game to bring awareness.

I would have loved to have that in front of the Ralph [Engelstad Arena], in front of the fans. But people are watching on TV. The support that we’ve gotten, good and bad, that opens eyes.

You know, a young lady messaged me and said, I have an opportunity to have a conversation with my dad watching the game. They kind of talked about it a little bit.

That’s the kind of the things that I’m looking for. We want people to have tough conversations. We want people to open their eyes.

I wait in line at the grocery store with them. I’m no different. I’m just one of them.

It’s a little bit different when you see LeBron James or Serena Williams. I guess people can feel that they’re out of touch with [regular people].

Me and Jacob, we walk the same streets as those people. I go to my oil change, I have to wait in line. I don’t get any privilege there.

That’s the kind of the thing that we’re looking to spark is that conversation. You know what? We’re not okay with how minorities have been treated in this country, people of color, and we’re about changing that.

Weatherby, on the long talk with his teammates beforehand about his and Bernard-Docker’s statement, then bringing it to the UND coaching staff:

First and foremost, we wanted to be upfront with our teammates first.

People know my stance. I’ve been pretty public on my social media and we’ve had healthy conversations in the locker room.

This one kind of took it to the next level, every guy got the opportunity to stand up and speak if you wanted to about how this affected him, what his thoughts and beliefs were.

That’s what makes this country so amazing is that people are allowed to have opinions that you might disagree with. But at the end of the day, you’re all in it together.

The support from my teammates was unbelievable. People were saying that they were standing because they had family members [who were military] and were like hey, I respect your decision. A lot of people said thank you for what you’re doing, It was awesome.

We then took it to the coaching staff. They were in full support and just wanted to make sure we were very strong on getting it out there about why.

I couldn’t have more respect for the coaching staff and the players in that locker room. Again, it’s an uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people. For them to be willing to have those conversations and even have those conversations with their family members, that’s how you make change. Change is uncomfortable and change comes through education.

Weatherby, on the negative feedback he’s received on social media:

Honestly, I haven’t dove deep into what’s happening out there.

But obviously, you see some negative stuff, and again, we were fully aware that was gonna happen. We were fully aware and fully okay with that, because at the end of the day, if someone’s badmouthing what we’re doing, that’s their right.

But at the same time, hopefully they can spark conversation with their kids about what’s going on in our country and why people are choosing to do that.

I would question why they were upset with that. Then I would hope that they would educate themselves. If they continue to educate themselves, and they’re still not comfortable with it, then again, we live in the greatest country where you can make that decision.

It’s everyone’s choice how they can handle peaceful protests like that.

Weatherby, on if he’s happy to be with a San Jose Sharks organization that has shown support for such statements, be it president Jonathan Becher tweeting about Weatherby and Bernard-Docker’s protest, Evander Kane co-founding the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and Kurtis Gabriel’s continued advocacy for Black Lives Matter:

Yeah, it’s awesome. The Sharks organization is the best organization in the NHL. I truly believe that.

I got a call from Doug Wilson today and he was in full support. His message was if you can think it clearly, [do it].

I was definitely surprised to get that phone call. Then right after, I was like I’m not surprised. This is the organization that’s the best in the NHL.

It’s awesome to see what those guys are doing. I follow the Hockey Diversity Alliance. I follow Kurtis Gabriel. I have utmost respect for everybody in the Sharks organization.

It’s definitely a dream to be slightly in that kind of realm with those legends.

It’s awesome when the general manager takes a moment out of his busy schedule. There’s no words for that.

Weatherby, on if he’s glad that he can show another side to the UND program that was in the news for the wrong reasons because of the Mitchell Miller and Isaiah Meyer-Crothers situation:

Yeah, obviously that was a tough situation for everyone involved.

We had conversations in our locker room that nobody is born hating anyone. Nobody is born discriminating. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn when we’re mentors or we’re fathers and mothers.

We can have those conversations early with our kids or the people that we’re mentoring. Sometimes, those conversations are borne from tough situations.

I remember the conversation I had with my brother [Kevin] about George Floyd. That was an uncomfortable conversation, and obviously, a tragedy. It was terrible, but at the same time, look what’s come from it. Look at the movements that have been created.

When those tough things happen, you can take a step and you can learn. That’s exactly what we did.

Weatherby, on what his grandparents, who were both passionate civil rights advocates, would say to him about his statement today:

They’d be super-proud. They’ve both passed away and I miss them tremendously.

They paved the way for how white people are going to be advocates and allies with people of color, fighting for something bigger than yourself.

I’d love to have them still around and bounce some ideas off them, but I know they’re looking down proud. It’s definitely a surreal feeling.

Brad Berry

Brad Berry, on his thoughts about Weatherby and Bernard-Docker’s statement:

We’ve given it a lot of thought here.

We have a really tight group. A close-knit group that cares for each other.

We have players from all different parts of the country.

In saying that, people have different beliefs. They have different thoughts. And one of the things that we are is respectful.

This is something that didn’t just happen tonight. It was thought about from the players’ standpoint. Jasper and JBD talked about it within the locker room. Everybody got their head around what was going on.

For the one time that they did it, the one time tonight, it was something they wanted to do. Everybody, myself included, have different thoughts, different beliefs as probably those guys.

But at the end of the day, it was a respect thing. We want to make sure that nobody’s disrespected through what happened today.

Matt Kiersted

Matt Kiersted, on the team voting Weatherby and Bernard-Docker as alternate captains:

This is my third year playing with those guys. I knew Jasper coming in. They’re both great human beings as you can see. They’re very outspoken. They have a right to express their feelings in a way they choose.

There’s respect in the locker room for those guys. They’re leaders on the team and they’re wearing letters. It’s well-deserved.

Riese Gaber

Riese Gaber, on Weatherby and Bernard-Docker taking a knee:

Everybody was supporting them. Everybody has their own views. There’s going to be positive and negative feedback. But overall, I respect their decision. I respect them.

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