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. Montecore

    All of a sudden the few that rioted in Vancouver last year are looking classy

    April 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Benjamin D. Crews

    It doesn't matter that we have a 1/2 black president, racist individuals will be here forever. Just ignore the haters, if not, you will be as miserable as they are.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yourmom

    Law enforcement has new rules governing assault. If you call someone the N word and you get punched in the face, it's legal.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jrl

      So of the millions of people on twitter, you found 40 racists tweets? CNN is getting really desperate with the race card in Obamas election year

      April 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Charles

    I would assume that you had the intelligence to know that there is a huge difference who's using it and what it means but I guess that you belong to the ignorant group.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GPZ

    Please, everyone, let's stop kidding ourselves. I am a middle aged white man and I'm constantly reminded of how ignorant people can be, especially when it comes to racism. Many of the people I know are middle/upper middle class. They'll hide their racism, but it comes out when only their friends are around. Pathetic. They'll call a black man lazy, just after they've walked to the mailbox to pick up their unemployment check they've been collecting for 2 years. and yes, these are people who can easily get another job.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bklynbridge

    Why is anyone surprised??? It's Boston , one of the most racist and hateful cities in America.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • aguyfromboston

      As a guy from Boston (hence the name, go figure), I'm incredibly embarrassed by this. I've heard Boston called a racist city before, and I really hate that we've somehow acquired that generalization and that the words of a small, idiotic group of bigots are taken to represent my hometown. I believe this, in part, stems from the Red Sox ownership decades ago ... I just wish/hope we'd move past it. I think you'll find people like this anywhere in America – the vocal minority of ignorant bigots.

      I think it's also about getting past generalizations/racism in certain sectors of society. I guess hockey is one of those areas that's still a problem.

      It was a great hockey series between two great teams (every game was decided by a goal, amazing and ridiculously stressful), the B's just didn't have it in the end and the Caps were playing really well.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. anticomm

    several kids who use this word don't make us racists, but media put toooo much attention on this, toooo much. look at zimmerman' case. NBC, CNN edited story, changing all the time. Media should be accountable for false reports, not just sorry.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Spyke

    It's A Shame that we come back full circle to this kind of behavior. I'm sure it was the fans who lost (Sore Losers) who have nothing better to do than to put other people down. I never knew why an African- American man can say the "N" word to another African- American man, but when someone else does it always seems to get Al Sharpton involved. Maybe, Everyone should stop using the "N" word amongst other words.
    In a country where Multi racial couples are the highest level ever, this shouldn't deter what our country has worked so hard for. There's always a few who try to ruin it for everyone else. There's far too many other Important things to worry about right now.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NFeKPo

    You call both sets of people uneducated and ignorant.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. liam

    Ah, the "enlightened" Northeast.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JD

    Can't blame southerners for this one. Most of us dont care about hockey so these racist comments must be coming from the wonderfully socially advanced northern hockey lovers who have spent decades calling us racist and touting there own moral and intellectual superiority over "the hicks" from down south. I know more racists from up north than I have ever met in the south.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • liam

      True. One of my best friends growing up said he never heard the "N" word until he visited family up north.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike

    The problem with the news media is that they keep sensationalizing this stuff. there are people that are going to be prejudice no matter what so quit putting it in the news. Really, if you ignore it, then there's no reason for it to keep happening because they don't get the reaction that you always give them. No brains in the media, but we all know that anyway.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. allen

    My question is- are these tweets coming from bogus secondary accounts, or did some clown actually post these comments from a full fledge legitimate user account?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Human

    hey "few" ...take a good look at the "many", pretty soon the "meek" will inherit the earth again, I'm think it start around the Nov elections and end up on Dec 22nd 2012 as predicted by the Mayan calendar ...Got your condo on the beach picked out yet? I know I'm looking.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian Tillman

    It is not surprising to me but it still saddens me that racism is still so strong. People are still willing to publicly show their racism and frame it for posterity on social media. Our land is wounded by something that just won't heal. At one point it seems to shrink and then at another it grows again. Racism is no longer de jure. It is de facto! (de jure = by law... de facto = it's a matter of fact)

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