The lack of diversity in hockey is no secret. Joel Ward, a Canadian of Bajan descent, is one of approximately 18 Black players in the NHL. His name has been in the news lately, not because he is helping his team advance through the NHL playoffs but because of the racist backlash he has received for doing so. After scoring a series-winning goal in round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Joel Ward was subjected to a litany of racist tweets from Boston Bruins fans who were obviously upset about their team’s first round loss.
By no means do I believe this type of reaction is limited to Boston Bruins fans. It was in Canada that a fan threw a banana at Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds. No matter where the racism is carried out, there is no place for it in sports (no place for it in society at all).
Sport is universal. It is truly a place where one should solely be judged on their character and talent. It should serve as an example of what larger society could achieve if we truly eradicated race-based judgement. As such, the logic utilized by people who will suggest “hanging” that “nigger” who scored a game winning goal is seriously flawed and just shows the depth of the ignorance of some people. Some people are ignorant. What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it? NHL player agent Eustace King is of the mind that the NHL should do “something” to show that the league fully supports and stands behind its players regardless of their ethnicity. But what?
I believe that leagues can and should do more to use their considerable power and reach to affect change in society. FIFA is a great example of a governing body that has attempted to do just that. They have taken a serious stance against racism in football (soccer). Should the NHL use Joel Ward’s incident as a teachable moment and follow FIFA’s example? On a larger scale, should America follow Britain’s lead and punish hate mongers?