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. Souled_Out

    Typical Bruins fans. I'm so happy they got put out. Now Chara can go back to being a butler for Gomez, Morticia and Uncle Fester.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jack Watcher

    What has this country come to? I am a seventy year old white man and I thought I had seen at least the beginnings of the end to racial hatred. Obviously I was wrong. Sadly, the election of Mr. Obama seems to have brought out the worst in our country. I spend a lot of time reading various posts on CNN stories and I am sickened by the racist hate that I see. I think this is, in part, the result of the divisive politics being played by the right wing in this country. I didn't volunteer to serve this country to live through this. Wake up people, this is supposed to be The United States of America. We stand for something.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • JenniferUCD

      well said

      April 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nadine

      Well put.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • STP1

      You said it all, no comment...

      April 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff E

    I have heard just as many racist comments from northerners, as I have heard from southerners. There is a rich family from Maine, "snowbird," that comes down to Florida every year, I've heard their 20-25 yr old son use the N word many times, and now they will not use their condo because an interracial couple moved in downstairs. LOL.. I hope more will move in, there's an ex klan guy across the street in a house, maybe we can run him off, if we get a few more interracial couples.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CapsFan

    So , "...several of the tweeters in the Chirpstory collection had removed or hidden their Twitter accounts." While some things have definitely changed, how bold racists will act under a hood or behind an electronic device certainly has not.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James C Edgar

    Losers are just that. Not the team, of course, because they are professionals who play the game for pay and will come back next year. It is the "fans" who live vicariously through men who are more talented, work harder, and respect their opponents, that the ignorant ones don't get. Don't even relate to. Shouldn't even be allowed to watch. I am embarrassed for the good people of Boston. But, then again, these are the same people who go to Mass but hate our "N" President. That say I do and then cheat on their wives. That don't now and never will get America and sport. Oh yeah, they also are the ones who elected Mitt Romney Governor. I guess we should have expected crap like this.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. All Races Need to Stop Using the "N" Word

    This word is so disrespectful and takes this country back 100 years. No one should use it, including blacks.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MasterWooten

    What about folks sniping at Tim Thomas for his political differences with the Obama administration as expressed in his simple refusal to attend his photo op last year?

    People on the left are tweeting about how much karma it is that a black from Washington DC eliminated him.

    I aint cryin' for Joel Ward. He's a multimillionaire black kid who when its all said and done will likely return to Canada and laugh at it all.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Thomas Menino

    He looks just like Obama's son

    April 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. james pfeiffer

    What do you expect...it's hockey and these are some of its fans.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ichiban

    I bet you that Joel Ward will definitely beat any of these tweeting losers anytime and any day in a game of Hockey.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. USuck

    So the POSs who keep claiming that Boston is racist, how many black Governors are there again and which state has the only one??? Oh and please feel free to go up to a person from Boston and call them a racist and see what happens to you.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alix

    Sports and intellect do not mix.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JUGGERNAUT

      @alix

      dont blame sport or intellect for racism.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mitzy

    I remember when the southies overturned a bus full of black school children to protest integration. Boston is an incredibly racist town.

    April 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • rsa

      I grew up in Southie during the forced busing days and don't ever recall a bus full of children being flipped over. Care to show proof of your story?

      April 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • rsa

      Didn't think so! I hate when people make up stories.

      April 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JimB

    Surprise, Surprise LaVar Arrington discovered racism is alive and well in the US. Does it bother him the very name of the NFL team you play for is a racial slur?

    April 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      You make and excellent point.

      April 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cas

    Other than few sprinkles of black guys, hockey is a white sports as NBA was in the black & white tv days. Hockey has not seen the breed of the likes of LeBron James, Michael Jordan...etc...

    A guy like LeBron James, with shear size and agility playing Hockey, there won't be silly girly fights in the ice ring....men would end up in hospital.

    So of course they are mad, not all Hockey fans are racists but white racists prefer a sport where white males dominate...

    April 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
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