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. mfx3

    If anything, electing an African-American president has made conservatives and bigots more than willing to express their inherent racism more overtly.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      So you automatically equate conservatives with racists. Way to interject politics into a non political situation. Why is it the only reaction to an ugly incident is to start calling people names. I thought that was what the article was railing against.

      April 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CJP

    Great goal Joel! Too bad you don't play for your hometown of Toronto. They needs some goal scorers in a big way!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CJP

    It's interesting that the American media hardly ever covers hockey but is quick to pick up on a story about skin color! Great goal Joel.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan C

    Hey everybody: Boston is no different than any other town. They don't hate ethnic groups or other cultures, they just hate people that beat their hometown teams. In the words of Chris Rock, "We don't have time to segregate them into littl groups".

    April 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ijo

    I am huge bruins fan like millions of others and could careless about skin color. The guy was there and scored, who cares what his color is....so a few ignorant idiots don't represent Bruin Nation! That was a great series, but sucked at the end for us. Capitals got the last lucky goal and won it fare and square! Please don't let the racist idiots blemish our town or the game of hockey. Those that are racist shouldn't be put in the same category as the rest of us!

    April 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ijo

    Are you serious or just laxed in the intellegence??....I'm Irish and I don't agree with you. Put your big broad brush you paint with in your mouth 🙂

    April 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. db

    Hay, Bostonians are not racist, they hate anyone that is not a Bostonian!

    April 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marine5484

    Stay classy Boston....stay classy.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Trent

    Yeah....cause....you know....racists don't exist anywhere else. Right....

    April 26, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. brian

    More like because there is a black president things have gotten worse. The borderline racists and those who suppressed their racist tendencies came out of the closet so to speak in the past 3 + years.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CptObvious

    Racism: further proof it's a bad idea when cousins marry.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Vonnie

    For those that think this sort of thing no longer exist, then here it is. What cowards they are, typical of a bigot anyway, cowards and liars, and these are the fools that continue to demonstrate such disgusting behavior.

    What is really sad, a significant number of them claim to subscribe to the christian faith-idiots!

    April 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Canchi34

    Not condoning this one, but hypocrisy/rascism goes both ways – witness the slurs from the black community directed at Jeremy Lin during Linsanity. Where was Al Sharpton then?

    April 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wild 1

    Well it is very uncommon to see a black hockey player.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. travis

    Sad thing is most of them aren't even really racist. They are just foul trolls spouting out trash to get a rise out of people. Ironically, they probably even lay awake at night being eaten alive with guilt but they can't stop themselves because they are sociopaths.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
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