When Sandy Banks of the LA Times suggested that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling would be better suited owning a National Hockey League franchise, hockey fans were outraged at the suggestion that our league is a safe haven for racists. While one cannot question that the NHL is not as racially diverse as other leagues, the suggestion that the NHL would be accepting of a racist owner is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, some hockey fans decided to respond to Banks’ article with sexism and racism, a point she made in her clarification of her Sterling comments:
Complaints from hockey fans flooded my inbox, many laced with racial slurs and insults: I’m an ignorant, ugly, racist gorilla — and worse that can’t be printed. Their rants make Sterling seem enlightened by comparison.
In a moment where hockey fans could have improved the image of a league that is often misunderstood by outsiders and has preached acceptance of all players (See: If You Can Play campaign), a few gave Banks the material she needed to prove her point.
Fast forward to last night’s Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens game. P.K. Subban gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead half way through the first period. He also scored the game winning goal seconds into the 2nd overtime period. It was an exciting game and further proof that P.K. Subban is one of the league’s young rising stars.
Once again though, what’s making headlines is the fact racial slurs were trending on Twitter in Boston during and after the game. Now this could be due to people calling these individuals out and quoting the offensive tweets. However, it is just one more example of a small group of individuals giving the public exactly what they believe about the NHL.
It also just showcases these individuals lack of intelligence about their own team, as P.K. Subban’s brother, Malcolm Subban, is currently playing in the AHL playoffs for the Boston Bruins AHL affiliate!
It wasn’t just the online audience targeting Subban, as he was also pelted with trash and beer after scoring the overtime game winning goal.
The vast majority of Boston Bruins fans are just like any other hockey fan. They support their team, but also realize that hatred and racism have no place in our society. I am sure they agree with me when I say I wish those who responded to last night’s game with racist remarks would A) Stop watching hockey and B) Refrain from representing their fan base on social media.
Boston Bruins President Cam Neely issued the following statement:
The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday’s game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.
The problem for the Bruins is that the actions of their fans ARE a reflection of the franchise. They may not condone the comments made on social media or what is done in the arena, but the Bruins organization and hockey fans as a whole will deal with the fallout.
We can write all of the articles condemning the racist remarks we want, we can call them out on social media, but at the end of the day, every Boston Bruins fan and NHL fan get thrown in the same boat.
In the games ahead, do not quote or retweet racist remarks, that is what these trolls want. Instead of engaging and giving them attention, use the report function on Twitter.
The events of the past week show us that racism and sexism is unfortunately still alive in the sporting world today, and likely always will be. It is something every fan will have to deal with at some point. Our job is to handle the situation maturely and avoid giving the offenders the attention they crave.