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. Tony

    Proving once again that the north is more racist than the south.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jackie the Jokeman Marlow

    Shoulda picked our own cotton.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Who you tryin to fool "Jackie Joke.." Check you family tree!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason S

      Chimps on ice?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • stwebb

      Just goes to show how flawed your genes are!!!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Schitzngiggles

      I do not agree with the poeple that wrote these tweets about Joel Ward at all I find it very offensive. What I can not understand is that CNN makes an issue out of this, but yet the story of Alton Hayes III and his teenaged friend beating someone just because they are white is no where to be found. Why aren't Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton running to the aid of this victim?
      Why is there no national rage over this racist crime where these two admit that the only reason they attacked him is because he is white and they were angry over the Travon Martin situation? Or how about the boy who was set on fire around the same time as the Martin incident, just because these guys are white, isn't that just as racist?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. V

    As an avid hockey fan, I have been disgusted by the twitter responses to Ward's goal. The same level of racism was also displayed by Pittsburgh Penguins fans, their hate aimed at Wayne Simmonds, during the series against the Flyers. The vitriol spewed towards both Ward & Simmonds are down right appalling in this day & age.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      I don't let the garbage people spew bother me anymore. These are the same idiots who post there racist rants on the comments section of these articles. They are just sad, pathetic losers who are so afraid of anything that's different from them they rarely stray from their single-wide.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Newt

    They mostly come out at night.........mostly.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ox

    Everyone knows racism goes both ways. And everyone also knows racist people, from any point of view, are idiots. Done and done.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Where DC?

    Ok, where's Don Cherry? We need his opinion NOW!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Conor McCartney

    the banana being tossed wasn't a racially charged moment... poor reporting again by CNN

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

      Please enlighten us oh wise one! Don't just tease us with your wisdom and not explain. It sure sounds like a racist move.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • pickettman

      Not a racist gesture? Then what was it? Were you there? Did you throw it?

      April 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. drtre88

    This isn't surprising. The computer just like the white sheet gives the cowards something to hide behind.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Edward Wilkins

    The negative voice is always the loudest. I would stake my life that there is more positive out there on this than negative. However, as I said...the negative is always the loudest and the one most reported.

    How many articles will be written because I and many others are excited by hockey breaking cultural boundaries and seeing the results of it such as this player's goal.

    Great goal, it is a shame that they won't get past the Flyers next round 😛

    Seriously though, real hockey fans will celebrate the sport crossing cultural bounds.

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

      Thank you! Simple math people... 20/100k+ hockey fans is so small its not even worth mentioning. There will always be racists and frankly 20/100k+ is not very much so clearly hockey is nearing the lower limit.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jostvan

    Joel played for the Preds. In Nasville. In the South. We fans loved him, and I am not aware of any of this trash happening when he played here. Please note that this garbage happened in the North.

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

    Racism is alive and well in the US. This is only one case of Afican Americans being called racist names. I can remember when President Obama was running and people had signs of monkeys and bananas. Look at all of the racist things the President is going through now. Wow, and we live in Country called the melting pot. I love my Country so much that i went to combat it. This is the best place to live but the people who do not and will accept change is making this Country bow to its knees. To this day, African Americans are still called Ni**ers and Colored. Then they take to Twitter and Facebook to express themselves but won't do it in public. Cowards

    April 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Derek

    There is a serious element to this. People for whatever reason feel they can unleash there poisonous thoughts to the general public, with the expectation that the general masses agree and/or feel the same as they do. CNN came out with a report today that more couples are now interracial couples especially Hispanic partners. Clearly are society is moving more towards a color blind era. In this situation, you will always find a few bad apples. In the end, Joe Ward just knocked down another barrier and myth. Now there is a successful Black Hockey Player...a new winner, not just on the roster. Thank you Joe!!!! Much Success!!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    I am not surprised concerning the racism in the United States today. People I have known for years and that call themselves Christians spouting out slurs concerning our president. Sad to see such ignorance that many whites have because of a black man in the "white" house.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lardeau

    That is definitely over the line. Really folks - this is 2012. Our Canadian National Game welcomes everyone. Why not ??

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

    No, it just happens in the open, in the North.

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