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. Aleax

    Boston has been a racial hotbed throughout our history. Yes they were the first to have a black player in hockey but more famously, the Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate. Busing in the 80's, civil war race riots, I hate Boston. A guy shoots and kills his wife and then blames it on a black man, the whole city went on a man hunt like it was rabbit season.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alysandir

    People have become so desensitized to the feelings of others that many say truly hurtful and outrageous things for the sole purpose of trying to be funny or entertaining. I see this *constantly.* Yet if you stopped and called the person out for their hate speech, they'll look at you like you've gone crazy and deny they have any prejudice at all! "Oh, I'm just fooling around; people know I'm not serious." Well you know what? It doesn't matter if you're serious or not; you still hurt somebody.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. christine

    Congrats to Joel Ward!!!!!!

    Ignore the racists like the rest of us try to do. I pity them for having such low intelligence and missing out on knowing fantastic, caring, fun people of all colors. It is their loss.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      The professional teams said it best – ignorant, classless, unacceptable. Those are the words that should be used because they carry weight. You and yours have so overused the word 'racist' that I roll my eyes every time I see the word or hear it on tv....expand your vocabulary and quit misusing the word. Also, you think this is bad – go look on any black power or Trumpet site and you will see ignorant comments posted by blacks against whites – this blade swings both ways.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim Tom

    Interesting. So as long as a single racist existst on the internet, times haven't changed.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJ

      There is far more than one

      April 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Judge Dredd

    That knee grow shouldn't have scored the goal then.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |

      you and your inbreds going to stay ignorant...

      April 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Realdirect

    If there were no white racist......there would be no racism at all!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Judge Dredd

    Like this is a surprise. Boston is one of the most racist cities in the US. We always focus on rednecks in the south well at least they are exposed to blacks and hispanics so they somewhat have a point. As for whites in Boston, how many black people do you think are in Boston? Blacks make up about a quarter of the population. That is way less than your average US city. There is a reason why blacks do not want to live up there, one is it's cold and black do not like the cold but it's mainly the whites that live there.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • devin4287

      Whats it called when you characterize a large group of people based on a small minority

      April 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TonyMontana1

    Another sport I hope they take over! Good for you Joel!

    April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LaRhue

    Hey CNN, ask Bill Russell (NBA hall of famer) how boston treated him when he first arrived to play for them.. Boston should be ashamed and so should anyone who defends this type of deplorable behavior..

    April 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark

    Ahhh! Racism and stupidity not exclusive to Southerners. Thanks
    for making South Carolina look reasonable for a brief shining moment.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Todd M

    My God. Just sad and pathetic. Publicly humiliate them. How far have we really come?

    April 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LaRhue

    Imagine a racist dies, goes to heaven and discovers God is black....

    April 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • itoldyuso

      God is not black lol

      April 26, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • vince86

      They'll assume he's an affirmative action hire.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jon d

    leave it to the media to make this a bigger issue

    April 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I am not sure if they are making it a bigger issue, but spotlighting the cowards of Boston.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    I remember when Anson Carter went to play there it was an issue then, Boston is just not that diverse as of yet.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. culpster535

    Am I the only one who finds it a little odd that at the top of this story is a picture for another story with the caption, World's only known all white adult male orca ?

    April 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
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