NHL player Joel Ward's winning goal sparks racist tweets
Joyous teammates swarm Capitals right wing Joel Ward after his series-winning goal against the Bruins.
April 26th, 2012
02:02 PM ET

NHL player Joel Ward's winning goal sparks racist tweets

[Updated at 2:26 p.m. ET] As Joel Ward’s Washington Capitals teammates swarmed their new hero after his playoff series-winning goal against the NHL’s defending champions Wednesday night, more sinister emotions were swirling on social media.

A number of people took to Twitter with racist comments, calling Ward - one of about 20 black men currently on National Hockey League rosters - the N-word after the Capitals beat the host Boston Bruins 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.

Perhaps to those tweeters’ surprise, someone collected 40 of those tweets and put them in one place: Chirpstory, a site where one can aggregate other people’s Twitter posts for posterity.

The posts included:

- “Haha that (slur) actually did something.”
- “The fact that a (slur) got the goal makes it ten times worse.”
- “We lost … To a hockey playing (slur)…. What kind of (expletive) is this.”

To what should be no one’s surprise, the posts caught the attention of sports celebrities and media Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

“Despite a black president, things haven't changed,” sports columnist and ESPN “First Take” contributor Rob Parker tweeted Thursday morning.

“Thought times have changed? Is this real?” former Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington tweeted.

The offensive tweets came after Ward, a 31-year-old right wing, followed up one of his teammates’ shots and backhanded the rebound past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, ending the Bruins' season.

As the collection of offensive tweets made its way through social media - Canadian broadcaster CTV was among the media outlets to notice them early - some of the people behind the original posts started shying away from the growing attention. By late Thursday morning, several of the tweeters in the Chirpstory collection had removed or hidden their Twitter accounts.

Others still had the posts on their own Twitter pages, and still others had removed the original posts but added posts either ridiculing the angry reaction they were getting or saying that they aren’t racist.

The National Hockey League, the Capitals and the Bruins also took notice.

"The racially charged comments distributed via digital media following last night's game were ignorant and unacceptable," the NHL said Thursday. "The people responsible for these comments have no place associating themselves with our game."

The Bruins released a statement saying they were disappointed, and that the "classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization." The Capitals' statement said that the comments were unacceptable, and that they are "outraged by those individuals who expressed such ignorant comments."

This isn’t the NHL’s first racially tinged incident to grab headlines this season. In September, a fan threw a banana onto the ice as a black player, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds, prepared to take a penalty shot during an exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings in London, Ontario.

Racially charged outbursts in sports, on Twitter and on the field of play (as Liverpool and Manchester United fans well know), are nothing new. A search for the N-word and any sports team on the social media site will yield a number of offensive results.

But the messages that flew Wednesday night won’t help the image of a sport in which few black men play professionally, and in which those that do fight stereotypes. “This guy can’t stand on skates,” the Winnipeg Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien, who is black, once said, recalling what people had said about him.

Coincidentally, the team that many of the N-word tweeters were supporting - the Bruins - was the first NHL club to feature a black player: Willie O'Ree, in January 1958.

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Filed under: Hockey • NHL • Race • Sports
soundoff (546 Responses)
  1. mickey1313

    Sad, after all the trash talk about racism in the T. Martin case, now some red neck yolkels have to be bigots. I thought we were past all this. We have a black man as commander and chief, but people are mad about a hockey player. It makes me sad I'm a white man

    April 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      As a white person myself I am ashamed of these bigots as well. I take some solace though knowing that the positive accomplishment by minorities, in this case Joel Ward, just really ruins the day for these idiots

      April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another brainless stereotype

      They weren't rednecks. Rednecks are way too smart to live in the frozen North or have anything to do with it.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Minister of Thought Control

    They should be arrested, tortured, and sent off to re education camps in the desert for exercising freedom of expression. That will not be tolerated in America! Freedom is dead! Long live political correctness!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      Of course the First Amendment protects offensive speech (but not shouting "fire" in a crowded theater) and we are all proud of that protection. It is not merely being "politically correct" however to use a word which is a legacy of centuries of slavery. It is disgusting and offensive and frankly I would imagine the vast majority of Bruin fans are embarrassed. Your post misses the point as to offensiveness, not political correctness....

      April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry

      This isn't about political correctness; this is about common decency.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      What is with you idiots defending the free speech of bigots but then getting up in arms about criticism of what they say? The criticism itself is the same free speech that you so dearly love

      April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdoots

      Freedom of speech is great, I love it. But I think it's pretty ridiculous to use it as a means to pardon something like hate speech. Double standard, perhaps, but I have a very hard time believing that anyone involved in writing the amendment intended it to protect this kind of stuff.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • mckillio

      The N word has nothing to do with political correctness. The fact that you don't understand that says a lot about you.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonee

      They're still free to express themselves any way they want. And, we're free to ridicule and chastise them for being bigoted idiots.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    Don't care what color! Joel Ward can play on my team anytime.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jay Q. Regner


    April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. beelzabarber

    Congrats Joel Ward! Not only did you net a HUGE game winner, you managed to upset some true white trash as well. I would consider that a bonus. people like that have should have no rights at all. GO CAPS!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Diest

    Boston is America's northern most "Southern City."

    April 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz in Seattle

      I have lived in Charleston SC and in Boston. Boston was way more racist.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fischdog

    Boston makes Mississippi look like Berkley.

    What a Loser city.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. raven


    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Katy Mae

    Aren't we beyond crap like this? I'm ashamed these people are from my neck of the woods. The flippant remarks of a handful of idiots doesn't represent New England.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL

      Yes, yes it does. Boston is racist town. Sorry.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    Not that this is ok but when Shaquille O'Neal racially taunted Yao Ming no one made a big deal about it.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jimdog33

    First ever black NHL player (Wille O'Ree) played for the Boston Bruins... just sayin'....

    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BOMBO ©

    I remember the banana incident. I don't think it was racist. I think a fan was just trying to distract Simmonds. A watermelon would have been racist.

    Also, Byfuglien isn't ridiculed because of his race. He's ridiculed because he's fat. Just setting the record straight.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tevent

    But racism doesn't exit right? People please wake up and stop trying to shove everything up under the rug.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL

      Sorry but I have to say, who is shoving what under the rug???? This made headlines on CNN, it was on the front page of CNN.......not getting how this is been shoved under the rug????

      And I would like to say this is shameful behavior coming from those fans! They are ignorant sore loosers!

      April 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Alton Hayes III

    know the cause

    April 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Morningrise

    You can be mad and outraged all you want. But you have to wonder what causes such fervent racism. What makes people so intolerant of African Americans? Humans are creatures of habit. We came to a realization about a certain group of people through experience. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • NYY120

      That experience in this case being....what? That African Americans can be awesome athletes and kick the crap out of a loser Boston team?

      April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • cbb1179

      Is it an honest realization or a centuries old need to regain control? I don't think segregation had anything to do with a realization of a certain group of people, but rather it was a result of the resentment one group had toward the other group after losing control of them. To put it bluntly, your theory would suggest that racists only became racist after attempting to treat other races as equals from the start. We know that never happened. The cause of such fervent racism is a result of wanting to feel superior from the beginning. Hitler didn't play nice at first. He always had his views, regardless of the reality. Know what I mean? I think you do.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
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