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. ExPAVic

    Wait a Minute

    The Flyer's Wayne Simmonds tore the Penguins a new a–hole in their series and you didn't see any crap about it. Therefore, it must be those jerks in Boston who have such a fascination with the N-–word.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jdr24

    If I were a Bruins fan, I'd be mad because it looked like they should've called goaltender interference. Letting your irritation turn to racial slurs is just classless though.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • flyonwall

      Then I guess you know nothing about hockey? Goalie interference is often not called on a rebound shot, or when a player from the opposing team is forced in to the goalie by the other team. Both happened during that play, refer to the video if you need some help remembering.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      Goaltender interference? Hahahaha... At least the goalie in question won't get a chance to turn down a Stanley Cup champs' White House visit this year.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • allyday

      Holtby is a boss.. when I saw that it made me snort! Capitals had possession of the puck when that happened so I see a penalty more than interference, but still, pretty funny!

      April 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      69.6 Rebounds and Loose Pucks – In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.

      Ward tapped in a rebound.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nate

    Race relations have not gotten worse. People only think that because every little thing is blown up by the media and then mindless people lap it up. There are always going to be people who say hateful things, whether about race or something else. The strong ignore these comments but unfortunately we have too many people who want to be victims in our society.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      I wonder if you would think it was a" little thing" to have some degrade, belittle, and disrespect you or someone you loved! It is your thought process that is the most harmful to society and to imply if you don't like being called out of your name, disrespected and degraded that you are weak speaks to a mindset that is dangerous and ignorant. Good luck on your christian values!

      April 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Amir

    I'm a die hard Bruins fan but come on now! We lost a tough series. We played our hardest and lost to a good team. So what Joel Ward is African American. He's a hockey player just like any other. This racism stuff is just plain ridiculous!!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      Shades of Jack Johnson... (no pun intended).

      April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Schwartz

      African-Canadian, not African-American

      April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      What's your point ?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hgray

    Only rednecks would speak like this..go shot some deer or other defenseless animal and shut the eff up!! total Bruims fan but dam..just a game..someone has to lose..GET OVER IT..just like Patriots fans do!!!!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott O' Canada

    Tim Thomas wasn't one of those. Or was he?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J

    Not surprising. We are in the U.S.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      I really take issue with your post. The way you worded it makes you sound like you are racist towards the US. What do you think this is the 1950's? I've played hockey with many Americans and they all came from different ethnic backgrounds. Do me a favor and understand that you are part of the problem not the solution.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. brickscity77

    Why give these racist, ignorant imbiciles the satisfaction by making this a story. The problem with hatred is that we tend to augment the issue by publishing stories like this that will continue to remind and anger people of all races.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. the_dude

    Wait a minute.....dont blacks call each other the n-word all day every day? Don't rap songs talk about n-word this and n-word that??? Don't blacks see how stupid and hypocritical this is?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • doug

      If you are interested, the counter to your valid argument is that the way this hateful word is used today is by people of color is to minimize its racist past meaning, to take control of the word and redifine it lessining its power.

      While I would agree that retiring the word from being used is better, if many Americans feel that taking control of the word and minimizing its hatefulness by using it an endearing or different definition that is their choice.

      I actually see it as a sign of progress in a way. Face it, the young kids of today can only use it because they cannot understand or relate to what people who looked like they do went through years ago. If they had an understanding of that level of oppression then they would most certainly feel sick in even using the word.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • liam

      It's the context that white people use it in compared to black people. Not hypocritical whatsoever.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      If you cant see the difference between the interactions you point out and the hateful context here, then you are a mor0n

      April 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dustmop

    POETIC JUSTICE that a black man scored the winning goal, against the biggest racist in all of sports Tim Thomas!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SAbrechocken

    How many people who tweeted that stuff were black number one and number two why is everyone so shocked that people tweeted that? Sorry but the NNNNN word is very commonplace and I think that the power that lies in the negativity of the word is lent to by people of all races that are offended by it. Maybe Al sharpton will rally a march or a skate!!! Oh wait those people dont ice skate... omg i said those people.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DC

    In 2010, Peyton Hillis became the first white running back to run for over 1,000 yards in a loooong time. I don't recall seeing any disparaging remarks about him being white, did any of you? He actually won a spot on the cover of the Madden football video game too.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mark trought

    it isgoing to take a while for these cavemen and women racists to die out. it is hard to teach cave ppl new tricks

    April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • ffact

      yes it is hard to teach cave people new tricks, just look at africa

      April 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • crowgan

      hey. you're insulting cavemen

      April 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tony

    This seems like good news. Out of tens of thousands of people there are only a handful of racists.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lexgreen

    They are squirming at the poetic justice that Thomas was bumped out of they playoffs in a 7th game OT goal, by a team from the city he no doubt reviles. His building frustration in some recent regular season games was evident. The fact that the goal was scored by Ward only makes all the political melodrama funnier. "Don't Tread on Me" banished to hiburnation.

    The tweets are overwhelmed cries of anguish. If there's anything worse than whiney liberals, its whiney conservatives . . .

    April 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
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