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. Denzel

    why do people have to go there about who can and can not say this word...white people cant say it because you guys created it as a horrible word and we the black people who live in urban areas put a "good" meaning to it, so its simple you guys cant say it because the history you have with it and this is only because we are not ready for you guys to use it because we dont trust how your going to use it, you know because of that "LITTLE" slavery inccedent

    April 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Potion4

    And they say racism doesn’t exist.WOW WOW

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

    No matter how much society thinks it's progressed, there will always be ignorant fools.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jrl

      And...... CNN continues on with the Obama reelection campaign playing the race card. 40 tweets out of millions of people and this is a major news story? What a joke

      April 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob in Md.

      This is the glory of the internet. It gives fools somewhere to hide. Hate now has somewhere to hide and still be heard. But what the heck, Boston has a rep for being losers. Why change?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Erin

    Those morons are an embarrassment to the sport of Hockey and are in now way representative of hockey fans at large.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    I don't think any region of the country has a license on knuckleheads. But while watching the series, I was glad to see Ward score the goal. During every game when the Caps were winning, he was cheering the loudest. Besides, he has the ultimate response to anybody making those tweets, "I'm still playing hockey and your team is OUT!" Curse me out all you want; we won.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Disgusted

    The classless tweeters (twits?!) find it more difficult to post their uninspired crap anonymously. The internet knows who you are. Your mother will find out and wash your mouths out with soap. In other words, use your grown-up words and learn how to be proper sports fans.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MisterPL

    While there were plenty of obviously derogatory comments made, there were plenty of Tweets that could have been read as congratulatory so long as one imagines them being read by African-Americans. Don't forget the double standard, folks.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      One racist comment should not be tolerated if the country wants to move forward in race relations.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • police dad

      How is it even possible for you to not understand why it's still not okay to use that word even if the group it slanders has reclaimed it? I'm just at a complete loss when I try to imagine what it must be like to be so ignorant that you have a problem when an oppressed group reclaims a slur but still doesn't want others to use it. Use your brain for once in your wretched life, you ignorant, racist piece of human garbage. Leave this country now.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • TriXen

      @MisterPL But they're not. I can tell from the avatars that most of them are white guys.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Truth

    You ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait till the first black person wins a NASCAR race. Fortunately though, most NASCAR fans don't know how to read or write, let alone tweet.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rick

    What is there to say when everything has been said about racial hatred. Some think it`s there right to comment about how they feel about the color of someone`s skin.I guess they don`t know what the words compassion, love ,equality, i can go on & on but that would some feel inadequate about there life....Pity

    April 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. really?

    I bet the ones who spoke in this manner don't have any skills in any sport, much less hockey! I also bet they would not have the stones to say that to Mr. Ward's face...hahahaha! Now hang that!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    You ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait till the first black person wins a NASCAR race. Fortunately though, most NASCAR fans don't know how to read or write, let alone tweet.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Excitizen

    This is what you get when you live in a country that is still so divided by hatred of ANYONE different that it goes to the highest levels of government. Like someone said yesterday in a political thread: Christians who normally call Mormanism a cult are now flocking to vote for Romney for the sole reason, they cannot stand having a black man in the White House. No president in history has been treated with so much disrespect as Obama. Tim Thomas is a perfect example of that. I think that CNN should keep reporting on this garbage behavior anytime they come across it until the ignorant are shamed into hiding and intelligent people can get on with their lives. Same with those who hate Muslims and athiests, etc. Get over yourselves! Live and let live. Love your neighbor.......

    April 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MJSouth

    Congratulations Ward!! Can't ruin his big night. Every group has it's small number of losers.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Aquahealer

    There will always be troglodytes in this country, they will never go away. They teach their children to be troglodytes. It's impossible to get rid of this desease. I call it Archie Bunker syndrom. As long as all these Archie Bunkers up north breed, it will continue to spread. Dumb freaks that just hate the world, but it's really not their fault, that's how they were raised, and they will pass it on to their kids for eternity. I don't even visit up north anymore, they're all still living in the 80's. Bunch of freaks that will die a miserable death. Someday we'll put you all on a boat and send you back where you came from UK, France, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Holland, Italy. You can all return to where your forefathers came from so we can take this country back. Oh gee you don't want to go back? Too scary for ya? Bunch of uneducated freaks. I have to live in this world of kooks. I'm surrounded by animals. It just never ends. Damn, so many stars and galaxies out there, can't we ship you freaks somewhere? Where's my filet and lobster tail?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rex Riley

    What???? There are racists in our midst? As long as there are human beings there will be racists, wife beaters, child molesters, etc. Move on and stop giving these mental midgets attention.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Excitizen

      attention? No, this is social shaming for ignorance. I think it is a good thing to have so many people shaming and calling out the cowards who post that crap. Maybe if enough people refuse to tolerate this kind of hatred it will eventually stop. You don't stop a bully by ignoring his behavior – you stop a bully by standing up to him.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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