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. Davd

    just by posting this article, you and spreading racism. no one needs to know about this.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Perry M

      So instead we should ignore it? Turn our heads and pretend it doesn't exist? No. We need to shine a light on behavior like this, so everyone can see it for the disgraceful filth it is.

      Also, if calling attention to something means you're promoting it, then that would make Martin Luther King Jr. the biggest promoter of segregation in the history of mankind.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. VT Guy

    Tim Thomas let the goal in on purpose so he wouldn't get more bad press by refusing to go to the White House if the Bruins won the Cup again.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. asdf

    we're just mad because we thought they would never conquer ice as a medium for sport. But yet again, we've been proven wrong. First Tiger, now Ward.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WillH85

    Racists are going to be racists and sadly I don't think that's going to change for a long time. I think its going to take a more integrated American society for that to change much at all.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Say it ain't so

    Anyone who thinks or is expecting racism to end is living in a dream. It has been a problem from day one & it'll continue to be until the end of time. Sorry to say.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tamara

    This is what happens when you teach tolerance rather than acceptance.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David


    April 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bryan

    Finally technology with a real moral and social purpose, exposing racial hatred where it was once only mumbled among cowards and haters. The exposure sheds a light where whispers once enjoyed darkness.

    The number of black players in the NHL is comparable in percentage to the number of fans that agree with this kind of racism even as the impact of one is as a mountain and the other a grain of sand.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rocke9

    Not a big surprise coming from Bruin fans. You should have seen all the racist comments on their FB page in regards to PK Subban during last year's playoffs. Even worse, none of the other Bruins fans condemned the numerous racist slurs. It's almost like there's a segment of Boston that's transplanted from 1950s Mississippi...

    April 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JAANC

    those people who said that need to keep their damn racism out of hockey.... they are just ruining everything..

    April 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. inciteful

    mzkcsunshyne, I don't think the President's statement was racist. I think it was elitist, snobbish and self-serving. I believe he made the comment because, at that time, the only picture publicly displayed of Martin was when he was 12 years old. He was a good-looking kid. I haven't seen any other pictures of Martin, although I've heard there are some more recent photos out there. The most attractive people have symmetrical features like Martin. I don't think that the President would have been inclined to make his same comment if the victim were a 6-ft. 3-inch, very dark-skinned guy with asymmetrical features. Do you? Be honest.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. astarus

    Oh noes! Someone on the internet anonymously posted something racist!!! Put it on the front page of CNN!! Up next, water is wet!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jeff

    What do you expect, LaVar Arrington, when you play for a team called the Washington REDSKINS?

    April 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Eduardo

    for those racist imbeciles making racist remarks and posting them are disgusting and abhorant in an individual. Get a life and grow up and be a human and not an idiot. You are a disgrace to the country.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Well spoken. Good job. Thanks.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • dapace

      I lived near Boston in the late '70's. I'm white, and I was many times ashamed to be white.

      April 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. leon

    i work a natural gas company had to listen rascit sur 28 year women joke but i can said that all white people is not like that if look some largest gas company the promote rascit under the rug in the compressor station how many women they hire you be surprise how many monorties hire how about the electric company take will be surprise

    April 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trent

      I think racism is the least of your worries. Try visiting a second grade English class.

      April 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • 99Man

      What the hell did you just say??? I think I just got dumber having read that.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Hi

      Uh, what??!

      April 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
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