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. Johnny America

    ....Those racist Northerners.....

    April 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. crowgan

    typical Boston fans

    April 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dunlar

      No.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob

      He scored the winning goal it doesnt matter if he is a diffrent race, he is still an NHL player which is an honor I think the comments where just down right hurtful. Anyone who is a profesional athlet they earned it and should get credit not get made fun of or be called names...

      April 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Greyhound37

    Amazing that there are clueless people out there like this.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dunlar

    I didn't even see who scored the goal. I saw the puck go in, and the TV go off.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ckbabs

    those tweets are cruel! And obviously written by very sheltered, ignorant people. Who cares what color someone's skin is!? It just baffles me! They don't know Joel Ward. He could be a really great guy. Certainly not deserving of such deeply cutting slurs. These comments go way beyond just not liking an athlete.
    Sadly, some people are deprived of tremenous friends over the course of life because they can't open their hearts and minds..... Some of my dearest friends are of a different race and make my life so much better.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Darryl

    I love hockey. I discussed this earlier with some fellow fans though, and we agreed hockey has some of the most shameful fans. I know all sports have their bad fans but this reminded me of early in the preseason, when playing in southern ontario, flyers black player, Wayne Simmonds, had someone throw a banana peel on the ice as he went in on a shootout attempt. It's so embarrassing and totally undeserved, hockey is the greatest sport and to see fans think like this is such a shame....

    April 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ben36

    Jigs have football and basketball. They should leave the NHL to us.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • lookinin1980

      @Ben36.... you're a disgusting piece of garbage. I'm from Canada, the home of hockey, you're not welcome here.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • James in Denver

      To ignorant racist tools like yourself? No thanks.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Booby D

      Who is this us?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bobby Noheater

    The US is, and will always be, a racist society. We really need to face up to that fact.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ben36

    Jigs stay out of NHL. You are not wanted.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Booby D

      BEn your sisters calling you to do her again!! Now get back in the trailer!!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul

    .....and yet we continue to lower budgets on education

    April 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dsbsky

    I am white and I think these people are just ignorant fools, filled with blind hate.. Ignorance does that.. People fear what they do not understand.. Anything different.. It's weakness and cowardess and only the "truly" strong people can overcome it. Don't let things like this breed more hate.. Use it as an example of what not to be.. We all know these people are wrong.. but it has changed and using the black president as some kind of comparion is racist in it's self.. You cannot combat racism with racism, it only makes it worse.. Saying nothing has changed is ridiculous.. Ever hear the saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same". It is what it is? Well, it is.. and they do.. There will always be racism as long as there are races.. Don't become one because you hate them.. Then you just become what you hate..

    April 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. darmonx

    omg.. really... anyone can freaking tweet. whoever gets offended by tweeter remarks need to peel their onion skins.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    As someone who lives in the Deep South and is automatically identified as racist just by being a WASP from Alabama, this just shows that racism is alive and well just about anywhere in the US. It's sad that these comments were made just because of the guy's color. Boston fans need to look in the mirror

    April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • crowgan

      Boston is one of the most racist, provincial little towns I've ever been to.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. barbel graham

    just think how many of those people hold position where there responsable for hiring people for work and you pepole say it fair out there in the world wake up racism is alive and well there is your proof now you think if one of those people holds that postion there fair in hiring a person of color i think not

    April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. slackzac

    but, but i thought only people in the south were racists?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
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