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. Lacey

    of course, the people making the tweets were black, so it's not really a racist thing.....

    April 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sadly Beautiful

    Why are people always so shocked when racism rears its ugly head? It's not as though 20 years ever goes by without any racial incident occurring and it's a shock. Unfortunately racism will always be with us until instead of being passive when we hear or witness it we all out the offender I do support making all the names of those that Tweeted that nonsense public though so they will understand they can't be racist and hide. and for those of you calling Boston more racist than other places, you have no idea. It is racist everywhere. I was once interviewing a young woman for a job. My boss at the time didn't even meet her. He simply waked past the meeting room, got a quick look at her and later said to me that she was not right for the job. I was shocked. This took place about 400 miles south of Boston.

    April 28, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      The comments may come as a surprise to some and normal to others. However, just recognizing racism is not enough. With social networking taking over media these days it is important to make those comments as public as possible. Those ignorant individuals that do not represent the masses must be intensely ridiculed so the youth understands it is unacceptable. We can not continue to just say, "Oh racism exists and there's nothing we can do about it." That's a cop out. Our society has grown over the past century and racism has fizzled away in the mainstream. Yes, there will always be those individual fools who enjoy puttin others down by whatever means, but we have to embarrass them. Inundate them like they inundate others. Racism is never acceptable and sitting behind a keyboard and monitor to say it is a cowards' game. Notice those people didn't say it to a microphone with their face in a camera...cowards.

      April 28, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    @ John Thomas

    However, if you replace the word “Neanderthal” with the word “Inadequate Person”, then I agree with you 100%.

    I think that behavior you describe in your Post is a self soothing exercise for the “Inadequate Person“along with their sarcasm, butt pats, and their tongue kissing each other.

    April 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. retphxfire

    As a fan of all things New England/Boston (long family history) I am disgusted and even a little guilty that I still call the area Home.. Racism is alive, with no color barrier and it isn't color blind, it will take more than one generation after the passage of Civil Rights to end prejudice, ignorance and stupidity. Some people will always find someone or something to blame and lash out at for their own failures and short-comings, using sports, crime or other method to voice those short-comings.

    April 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Zippy

    Stop the presses – racism from the "good" Northeast of the country? Oh the humanity ...

    April 29, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. eric porter

    our great liberal northeast...the place where all the great liberal causes for blacks are center. what a joke. i have always consider the northeast a fraud...they always claimed to be for liberal causes as long as they can keep the minority in a lower class economically and socially. they never want to invite us into their homes to consider equal to them.

    i am from the south and grew up in the prime of the civil rights movement. i actually appreciated the racists klansman from the south, at least you knew them and they would tell you in your face they hated you. but the liberal northeast will act like they like you and want progress for you, but behind your back hate you even more than the racists southerner.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. markishere

    Wow, racism from Boston fans? Who woulda known.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. Nubadopofloposhopolopolis

    Don't start none...won't be none

    Just sayin'

    April 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Crystal

    And golf...

    April 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Yesorno

    Losers for life are always in misery.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. hockeyfanbree

    i hate people who are racist

    April 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MarcSK

    The one thing I love about the internet is that it exposes fools who forget that whatever they say can be saved forever.

    May 1, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jet Jackson

    prime example of CNN trying to write a story to shock the nation, when yet people are just showing emotion to their team losing. it's unfortunate it that people resort to racial slurs, but lets be real CNN, hockey is a beautiful sport and you just write the stupidest stories sometimes. I never read an article stating anything about racial slurs when that... what's his name from New York Knicks had his one week of fame, Lin or something. The media is at fault for this not the people.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mark

    Joel Ward has been playing great in the playoffs...each shift he works hard and gives his all. Things seem to happen when he is on the ice. Keep skating hard joel...best of luck to you and your mates in Washington. On the race issue...Theres are always going to be a few idiots out there..they are not worth our time....so many of us accept each other now days...I see my 19 year old son and his friends and realize how far we have come in relations for people who are different from each other.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scott

    boo – your probably the first to cry racism, even though that is the most racist comment on here – congrats on being part of the problem

    May 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
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