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. Peter

    This racism in America is going to far. If you're a racist, no matter your race, leave the country and go hide in some mountainous region!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Patrick

    Everyone discriminates and prejudges, so everyone to some degree is prejudiced, and to that same regard, we all have discriminated through a little racism in some points of our lives...Unfortunately, I believe there are large segments in the Country that have not been exposed to the more positive leaders of either race. I think prejudices decrease as we become more educated and more aware; we will realize that we have more similaries than there are differences.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    Things have changed. But the fact remains that you will never get rid of racism completely.
    It will always be there and it is those few who post derogatory comments like these that make people think every white person is racist.
    These idiots are the extreme minority, nothing more. Stop giving their tweets any news at all. They don't deserve it.

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

    Oh noez....closet anonymous racists on the internet....that never happens.

    First of all, there will always be classless cowards who post this type of garbage on the internet who would never have the stones to say it IRL.

    Second, congrats CNN, for finding another story to fuel the racial divide.

    Third, congrats Ward for scoring the biggest goal of his career and taking down the ex-champs.

    Fourth, Cedric the Entertainer made fun of black hockey players in the "Kings of Comedy" tour...where's the outrage?

    Last, but not least, again, congrats to Ward and the Caps for fighting a hard fought battle. If you're a true hockey fan, you need to appreciate the accomplishment. If it seriously bothers you that a black man scored the goal, then please do us all a favor and just disappear and die. We don't need to be associated with the likes of you.

    P.S. Raffi Torres, if I ever see you on the street I'm going to pull my hockey stick out of the trunk of my car and smack you upside the head you POS.

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

      @Counteract while I understand your post (I really do), I think when you and others try to segment these thoughts and the people who express them to the "minority" you encourage it. By saying that "only Neanderthal's would say these things" you give solace to anyone who would think it, but not say it. No one "thinks" they are Prejudice. The fact is we have never been more divided, Black, White, Latino. And to say to CNN or anyone else that would expose these actions (for whatever reason they do it) please don't, is missing the point. Why don't you put the responsibility where it lies... On our neighbors/friends and family members who think these things. If we'd all tolerate this crap less in our personal circles, CNN would have nothing to report.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Counteract

      @mightyjova I understand your point and you are right, but I think you read too much into my comments when you say that I encourage it. I simply said these people are cowards, which is what they are. Frankly, i don't associate myself with people like this and even quit a job because I had a boss who used racial slurs on a daily basis. Couldn't respect myself taking orders from a "man" who showed such ignorance.

      As for CNN...I would have no problem with them if they simply covered the whole spectrum, but they don't. They are so afraid to ever refer to any minority as racist or any action by said minorities as being racially motivated. In short, they have no integrity, nor do they have any balls, which makes them as guilty of fueling the racial divide as those ignorant idiots who spew this evil racist garbage.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DefyTheGods

    OK, so racial slurs were tweeted regarding a black hockey player. And...?

    April 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris

    Bigoted people are uneducated, simple, and ignorant. Ridiculous behavior from ridiculous people.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ORLY?

      Well said. I hadn't dissolved it down into a feeling that could be expressed so simply.

      Good job (no sarcasm).

      April 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. across12

    Because some dolts posted racist comments doesn't mean the whole country is like that. I wouldn't even bother with these tweets because we'll always find some low degenerated people to attack others base on race and color. No sweat on it.

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

    If there affirmative action, there will always be racism. If there are black awards shows, there will always be racism. If there are all black network, there will always be racism. If black people continue to use to race card, there will be racism. If black people continue to murder their own, especially the kids, there will be racism.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • cbb1179

      Got news for you, it's a 2 way street. You have a responsibility to end racism as well. Because it didn't start with BET or Spike Lee or Bloods and Crips. It started with people being enslaved, then govenrment sanctioned segregation, then lynchings, not allowing blacks to play sports with the whites, uneven educational funding, etc. Before affirmative action, it was harder for a black person to get a good job than it was for a white person. I never agreed with afirmative action, but who is really to blame for it? I'll give you a hint, it's not the people who spent 400 years being treated as property.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ranger 14

      Racism is living in you good sir. Stop blaming the other side. Look to yourself first.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jason S

    Disney's chimps on ice?

    April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GUESS

    if he was on the other team and score the winning goal. Its would have okay...... SAD

    April 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mensaman

    I saw the game. It is so unfortunate that a few knuckleheads would make racist tweets. Just like in the Secret Service, don't condemn everyone for a few bad apples. Let us not dwell on the 40 idiots but of the tens of thousands who congratulated Ward on a great rebound goal. Washington deserved to win that series (I'm a bruins fan) and Hockey fans should get after those racist idiots and shout them down. Fellow Hockey fans – we must police our own.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff L

    Racism is soooo 80's...

    April 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fel121

    How can this be, I thought white people were the new victims of racism and blacks were the perpetrators there of...

    April 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DeeNYC

    Hockey still exists???!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sunder

    Got noticed as this happened in NHL, does anyone have any idea how much racism is there in kids hockey? I am not white so my son is also not white and he plays hockey and whenever he shows up to play with a new team there are either surprise looks (which I am fine) or angry looks with racist comments... I learned to swallow it as game is what is more important.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • JerseyJeff

      Really!?! I played hockey in HS too and I would not be surprised by the looks of wonder, but slurs at a kid?!?
      Uncalled for.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • colin

      Hockey is considered by white folks as the so-called "All american sport" i.e. white folks game. a game which is not dominated by black players. They see their heroes and school their children in what is an all american hero. They flock the game with their children. To see idols who are black will be a culture shock. I was proudly advised by my white work colleagues that they only take their children and grandchildren to hockey. No other sport is all american. Hence the racist text.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
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