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. mike

    Aw man...seeing this happen to the notoriously racist Boston fan base is a thing of beauty. I'm pulling for the Caps now that the Hawks are out...just to spite those slimeballs...

    April 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • P

      Way to generalize a few peoples twitter accounts as to the majority of bostons fans. This article was a low ball way to cause debate about some boneheads that tweet. I could do a thousand searches on people commenting on the game just after the goal and none of them would have racist slurs. But hey the article got a ton of hits

      April 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Griff

    lets go caps Joel Ward can be called any of those names. it does not matter, he still beat the defending stanley cup winners. who cares Ward you won it for all the caps fans

    April 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mark

    I love the tweets and comments about how times haven't changed, because everyone knows that a few idiots on twitter represent everyone's beliefs. Give me a break, there are always going to be stupid people don't blame all of society for the words of a few.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Darknight

    Nothing surprises me, this country was built on racism...

    April 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realdirect


      April 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Booby D

    Lets not forget who is running our country into the ground on Wall Street and in Congress.......WHITE MEN!!! So get angry at a black athlete as the WHITE guy picks your pocket clean.......morons.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mightyjova

    Based on the comments here, I'm not shocked by the Twits. If you can take offensive comments directed toward ONE human being and make it about why it's okay to be offensive to a WHOLE group of people.Wow! Won't stoop to insults, just wonder how many of you would say these things in public.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ian

    Really bad. Euro Soccer is way worse though. They don't even bother to hide behind a computer screen.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jlf

    Dr King's dream will never come to pass in my lifetime if ever...there are too many who can't wait for an occassion to come up to remind us how shallow,ignorant,and prejudice they are with their racist remarks. what a shame that we still define a person by color.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. markus

    Played with some black kids since i started plaing hockey in 1965 in the midwest. Never thought twice about it. Face it though, there are incredible black athletes the world over and it is only a question of time before we have a good percentage playing high level NHL hockey. Best man for the job will get the job.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pineal

    Are you by any chance insinuating that because of the incident in Chicago, it is acceptable for white people to use racial slurs and try to denigrate them on electronic media and in society?

    At least in Chicago Alton Hayes did not hide behind a building and shoot his victim – he came out, committed his act to vent his anger, and now rightfully will face the consequences.

    Perhaps instead of hiding behind their computer screens these "upstanding" white citizens of the USA can come out and openly call black people the N word instead of deleting their Twitter accounts when they are outed!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Claxton

    It's a big deal because there haven't been a lot of black players in the NHL, historically, and because one such player scored a goal that knocked out the defending Stanley Cup champion. Even if a black kid had not have beaten a white man over what happened to Trayvon Martin – which, for the record, isn't right either – this would still be big news, and proof that racism is not just alive and well in America – it's thriving.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. proud to be an American

    I am so sick of these racist people. This is not longer the country we were all raised to respect and love. It is time for the silent majority to take our country back. It also time for true Americans to run the right wing lunatics who are hell bent bound and determined to destroy this countryout of this country. They have no patriotism, they may say they do but they do not. It is time for the silent majority to not deport the illegals, as at least for the most part they do have jobs that the Americans who think they are above manual laborbetter refuse to take because they might have to work. I would rather have a working illegal that obeys the laws than Ruch L, Bill Or'iely and most of all Rupert Merdock placed on a slow leaky boat headed for China. Not sure they want them. These tweets are nothing but destructive, and do nothing but bring the other wack jobs out of the woodwork. They should be arrested.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ian

    The Boston organization promotes a violent culture with a thuggish team. Its fans really are a bunch of slimeballs because that's who they're selling to.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheHOYT

      Hey now, don't pigeon-hole all Boston sports fans into that category! I'm not the biggest Hockey fan, but I still love me some Bruins.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Realdirect

    If someone had the nerve! to say the " N" word to a persons face they may get KILLED!!! I know YOU won't say it.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TheHOYT

    This is disgusting, what is the matter with people?! Professional sports are supposed to be fun, clean entertainment! Why do some, uncivilized, people have to suck the fun out of it?! I'm white and, I am in no way insinuating that I a have endured as much as my black friends, I must say, I am sick and tired of the hate in this world. Literally, I am sick in my stomach right now! With everything going on in the world, we shouldn't have to deal with this kind of crap anymore! Can't we all just make the effort to be a little kinder and civilized in our thoughts and what we say about others? Is that really to much to ask?!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
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