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. 4frumAfrica

    CNN should please stop reporting any racist comment by 0.00023% of white population who are senseless. Majority of white people are sensible and good people. Said by a very black one.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      You are no doubt very close to correct in your "statistic'" but thank you anyway for being understanding about these tweeting jerks.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • NYC1972

      Look, the internet is accessible by every nut out there, this is not surprising and not alarming whatsoever, get over it...

      April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • This person speaks the truth...

      ...it's a sad statement when the truly ignorant can gain national attention by virtue of absolutely juvenile, pathetic, vitrilic comments. I'm surprised they were able to get their thumbs to work to that degree to even post. For that matter, I'm shocked they even have opposing thumbs. Good for 4frumAfrica.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Unfortunately, hate and fear seems to sell news nowadays. A sad testament to mankind.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • jstout511

      Thank you!

      April 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BOMBO ©

    He did Canada and the US a big favour if you follow international hockey. He kept Ovechkin and Semin off the Russian roster for the world championships.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gix

    People that tweeted racist remarks need to really get a life! Ward was the CAPS savoir during Game 7. GO CAPS!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sofa King

    Well this is all very interesting, but the really important question is – what does ANDRE HIMES think?

    April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fupped Duck

    OVECHKIN is overrated.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      The man plays like a demon when he's playing for his country. During the NHL playoffs – not so much.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DL

    What a bunch of idiots. I watched that game (love hockey and am white by the way) and was ecstatic. I wanted to see the Bruins go down. I don't care who scored, but more power to him! Way to go Ward!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. HJA

    I love it when I say someone is racist and they jump in my case for "playing the race game". They say racism is a thing of the past. What a joke.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • WellWell

      I must agree.....especially when I am seeing politicians willing to rig voter registration to eliminate the vote of Afro-Americans and when you have a SCOTUS willing to at least concider allowing police to stop pepole of color and ask for papers while ignoring those with a lighter complexion.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jsctaller

    boston might be the most racist northern city i have ever been in. i am in no way surprised that some of their fans reacted that way.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • eddale

      We should not expect any other reaction. Afterall we are in the United States on America. This is the American way :o(
      Edward Gaddis

      April 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Liz in Seattle

    This does not surprise me at all given that the losing team (and therefore the losing fans) are from Boston. I have lived in five major cities in many regions of this country (Midwest, Northeast, Deep South, and Northwest) and Boston was the most segregated, racially-backward city of all. Their politics are progressive but their personal lives are old school. There is not nearly as much social and cultural mixing in Boston as in other parts of the country, including the South.

    When people get upset that's when you really see what they've got on the inside. After eight years of living in Boston I can say that quite a few of the folks there are truly ugly inside, at elast compared to locals of other US cities.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tman

      What you conveniently leave out because it doesn't support your argument is that some of the tweets came from Detroit, Buffalo, Canada and North Carolina, and other places not near Boston

      April 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      sorry you have that impression of Boston. I find those negative attributes in many cities that I visit, but I personally don't think this is more prevalent in Boston. Go Bruins!

      April 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hockey Fan

    To bad those fans don't appreciate the skill and work ethic that is required to play at the level of the NHL. Good for you Mr. Ward , you worked hard to be at that level and I enjoyed watching you and your team..... GO CAPS!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. D-R

    This is really a shame. People need to grow up and respect each other.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Matt

    Why waste a news report on this? Who cares what a bunch of clowns say on twitter? Twitter is a waste of time and it reflects how pathetic people are if they need to share those thoughts on the internet.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnotherM

      Not trying to make you look bad but uh.... you just posted your thoughts....on the internet...

      April 27, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. consspiracy theorist

    Last year, Tim Thomas snubbed President Obama by refusing to go with the Bruins to the White House for a photo op and dinner. Now, who eliminates Thomas and the Bruins? Something smells fishy.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • wolfman

      if you're implying that tim thomas snubbing obama makes him racist, you're an idiot

      April 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. We'reAllBlackFriends

    What if one of the n-word tweets is from brother?

    Not that it excuses the idiots who tweeted with intended bigotry, but we hear this retoric from all races – not just white on black comments.

    The comments in the article from Rob Parker and Lavar Arrington are naive.

    New Flash: we may not like it, but there have always been racist jack wagons and there always will be.

    At least that's what Minister of Thought Control told me to say...i think

    April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shared_gum

    Simply horrible. And although hockey is largely played by whites, given the location of most NHL teams, I am little surprised. This is pathetic.

    On another note, Thomas will not be needing to find an excuse to skip the White House this year...

    April 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
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