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. Realdirect

    Don't you hate it when you TRY! to tan yourself....you burn....LMAO!!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sadstateusa

    Where have you been; in Boston? CNN ran that story for days! Stop spining and tell the truth...you racist? Please be honest...if you are able.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    Dear world: The internet is FULL of idiots who make really stupid comments all the time, is CNN going to write an article for every single one of them??? Grow up!!!!!!!!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Mike: CNN is merely reporting a story that has made headlines. They did not create the story. And by reporting it, they and all the other media channels shed light on something that needs light shed on it-namely, that ignorance and bigotry exist, and we should not forget that. If these remarks were against a Jewish player, or a Muslim player, or anyone else of a different ethnicity, then we should equally appalled and outraged. The way to end bigotry is not to act like it's "par for the course", but to highlight it for what it is-a mindset that has no place in a country as diverse and as great as the United States.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. guy martin

    I feel you man and really understand were you are coming from but they were not hanging white people in trees for hundreds of years it was black people,most blacks are not rascist to whites,only to other blacks,and trust me a black man commits a crime against a white man, whats the ending life iin jail death, Just Us will be sereved unless he is a rich black man, so from the news point of view there is sadly no news there, but for a country that tries to lead the world in whats right we have along way to go with racism,So if all the white people in the US want to make stories like this not that big of a deal,go get your grandaddys hood ,rebel flag an cross and admit to the world that hey i really hate black people just be honest about it .I would really have more respect for you.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sadstateusa

    King croc – Where have you been; in Boston? CNN ran that story for days! Stop spining and tell the truth...you racist? Please be honest...if you are able.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Why so much hatred? I just enjoyed the game as well as the outcome. I didn't think about the player being black. He was wearing a Capitals uniform and a member of the winning team.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Racism

    Anyone who says that the days of Racism are behind us are clearly not aware of all the bigotry that goes around the nation towards african americans to hispanics. Will we ever really evolve as a civilization? Will Martin Luther King's Dream ever come true? I sure hope so, but right now the future sure looks bleak

    April 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SJH

    It is so funny to me that ignorant people on this site who know nothing about black people, dont even know how to refer to black people keep calling this guy black. He is from Barbados! Just because he has beautiful black skin doesnt make him black, or (African American).

    April 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |

      "black" is a race...so yes, he is black.

      being from Barbados is his nationality, not his race.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chris

    hey CNN, maybe you publishing this article and thereby giving a global voice to these stupid comments was a mistake. The media shouldn't give attention to such ignorance,

    April 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |


      yes....the media should give attention to the ignorance and expose it. that will show how much blacks are being discriminated against in this country.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. alex

    first, the President isn't "black" (thank you, South, for those types of segrative words), he's "mixed", as are many people. ignorants come from far and wide. used to not hear them, but now that any racist, bigot or otherwise can get themselves noticed by blathering on the internet. rock on Goal Scorer!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cheri MacLean

    Just more proof – not that we really needed any – that lack of knowledge can be fixed, but ignorance goes on forever.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. goobernut

    Ahhh...Boston the birthplace of the original Tea Party, Arrogance and Ignorance, enjoy your off-season.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |

    It begs the question would they be okay with him scoring the winning goal for their team?

    April 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scottish Mama

    Goooooooooooooooooooo BLUES!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |

    Some things never change in Boston.............NEVER GO THERE!!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
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