By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer May 2, 2014 1:39 pm ET
P.K. Subban had himself a terrific Game 1 for the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night, which was capped by him scoring the game-winning goal in double overtime. After the game, social media was rife with praise for Subban for his two-goal performance in the Habs’ win. There was an ugly side, though, as well.
Many racist tweets circulated in the wake of Subban’s game-ending goal. Though this has happened before, the volume of the hateful tweets directed at Subban reached a rather horrifying scale. According to analysis company Influence Communications, the terms Subban and the N-word were used simultaneously on 17,000 tweets Thursday. In fact, the N-word was a trending topic on Twitter in Boston for a time after the game. (via CBC.com)
In the wake of such disheartening data, Bruins president Cam Neely released a pointed statement through the team:
“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.”
Several Bruins players spoke out against the comments when the team met with the media Friday.
Good on the Bruins for coming out and defending an opponent while also speaking out against alleged fans using a public platform for spewing hate speech. But it is absolutely shocking that they had to in the first place.
What makes these types of comments all the more unconscionable is the fact that the Bruins have a player of African descent on their team in future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. How do you think he feels playing in front of fans in Boston knowing there could be quite a few folks in the crowd that feel the same was as those on Twitter Thursday night. Additionally, Subban’s younger brother Malcolm is the Bruins’ top goaltending prospect and a former first-round pick.
This is such a dark cloud over the city of Boston, which has had a sordid reputation when it comes to racism. These tweets are not the voices that should be representative of the city, and it would be unfair to generalize based on the horrifying actions of a few, but this does harm to Boston’s already flimsy reputation on this topic. The fact that this same thing happened to Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals two years ago is also infuriating.
This also does little to help the image of hockey as an inclusive sport. With a drastically low number of minority players (though that number is encouragingly on the rise), actions like these from fans makes hockey feel closed off to people of color, which it shouldn’t be. The NHL has taken great strides with its “Hockey is for Everyone” program led by Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier with the Bruins in 1957, to encourage diversity. Something like this is an unfortunate setback.
And racism is obviously not only a problem in hockey. This is a problem not confined to any sport, really. It remains a world problem. Racism still exists everywhere and sometimes it manifests itself in some of the most ridiculous and trivial ways possible, like after a black player scores a goal in a hockey game.
If nothing else, this incident teaches us that there is so much more work to be done when it comes to creating a widespread environment of equality and unity. It’s just so unfortunate it comes at the expense of Subban who was just trying to do his job just like everyone else.