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Addressing Racism, In The Community And In The Game

As the protests over the murder of George Floyd continue to grow, the NHL, its teams and its players are (slowly) starting to make their voices heard.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

All of us here at Nucks Misconduct stand firmly in support of those who are protesting across North America right now against police violence against Black, Native, and other minority communities, as well as LGBTQ folks. Racism, hate, and discrimination are a poison on our society. Those in charge of “keeping us safe” must address this with fundamental changes, to ensure that all members of society are treated equally, that no one should have to fear for their lives simply because of the colour of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation. The murder of George Floyd, and countless others by police cannot be condoned. It cannot be forgotten. It cannot be forgiven. It’s time to enact real change, and we all have to be part of the solution. Black Lives Matter.

As the protests continue to spread beyond Minneapolis to cities across North America and around the world, we are looking at how the NHL is addressing this. First, let’s look at the NHL’s statement:

Is it a great statement? No, not really. It’s tepid at best, but there is something here that’s at least encouraging, and that’s the admission that they haven’t done enough to address racial inequality in the game. At a time where we’ve had a coach firing, as well as other incidents involving players current, former and future, the fact that they’re not trying to say they’re nailing it is at least a step in the right direction. Words are just words, however. What they do to change the culture in the whitest of the four major North American professional sports is what really matters here, and we’ll have to hold them accountable for it.

Teams have also been issuing statements, and there’s a real variety to what we are seeing from them in terms of the strength of their statements. Let’s start with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are in a city that is going through its own incidents of racial injustice:

Wow. This is a far stronger statement not just than the one the NHL issued, but even stronger than the one put forth by the Toronto Raptors. Hearing this from the most well known team in the sport speaks volumes.

The statement from the epicenter of all this is, politely put, a little more reserved:

I mean, it’s not like we’re expecting teams to come out and post the lyrics to N.W.A.’s ‘Fuck The Police’, but this seems a tad soft given it happened in their community. Still, at least they didn’t go full Islanders:

Never go full Islanders. I’m honestly surprised the phrase “a few bad apples” isn’t in there. In order to save space, we’ll link to the statements from the rest of the teams. As of this writing, there’s been no statement issued by the Vancouver Canucks. Statements from: Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, and Seattle(!!!).

It should be noted that a handful of teams have retweeted statements from players, and while that’s good, it shouldn’t let them off the hook, because that’s literally the least they could do.

A number of players have spoken out, and there’s been some great stuff from some of the bigger names in the game. Statements from: Evander Kane and Logan Couture of the Sharks, Anze Kopitar of the Kings, Anthony Duclair of the Senators, Blake Wheeler of the Jets, Nick Foligno of the Blue Jackets. We’ll add others we find in the comments, and if you come across ones we’ve missed, feel free to post them.

Kane has been very blunt that the stars of the game (and other sports) need to make their voices heard loud and clear:

There’s not been a response from Sidney Crosby yet, though there are two notable responses to this. First, from the second biggest trash journalist in the Pittsburgh scene, a pretty telling clapback:

He also offers up this bit of wishful thinking:

Yeah, Evander! Racism already ended, you dummy! Good lord, the stupid just burns. And there’s a response from the Penguins and uh, this speaks volumes:

Just a reminder, after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting near Pittsburgh, the Penguins pregame ceremony paying tribute to those who were murdered felt that this was a good idea. And yeah, this flag is definitely problematic right now.

Not a good look from a team that will still have to reconcile their White House visit someday.

Here’s the thing: There will be people who disagree with this post. There will be “stick to sports!” people. There will be “all lives matter!” people. And there will be the “a few bad apples” crowd. We’d love to stick to sports, but we’re human beings, and this is bigger than all of that, and something that everyone who believes in justice and fairness and humanity should be able to get behind with zero hesitation. If you can’t, you are part of the problem.

All lives matter? Sure, but you need to save that sentiment until Black people, other visible minorities, and the LGBTQ community can exist without fear that they will be targeted for merely existing. Until then, sit down.

And my personal favorite, “a few bad apples” in reference to bad cops. Until your so-called good cops actively root out and remove these “bad apples”, these words are meaningless, because as the saying goes, “A few bad apples spoil the bunch”. Silence is complicity.

At the end of the day, the NHL will have to continue to put in actual work, especially as the number of minority players continues to grow. It’s vital to the growth of the game at all levels that racism and intolerance be eliminated, so that kids who want to play, and fans that want to watch, feel and genuinely know that hockey truly is for everyone. They have a tough job, because it requires changing a culture that is almost exclusively affluent white people, and as we say this weekend, there’s change needed at all levels of the sport as we saw this weekend when a Hamilton Bulldogs prospect got called out for some pretty disgusting racist comments online.

It’s not an easy fix. It requires will and strength, a desire to educate, and fundamentally alter the way we approach a lot of things in society. And even though it’s hard, it’s not something we can allow to continue. The black community, and others, need us to make these changes, and we owe it to everyone of them to make it happen.