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. Luvvy Duvvy

    There's a black hockey player?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Donnie the Lion

    Love the tweeters claiming they are not racist. We are all pretty much judged by our actions (or lack thereof) more so than how we think or feel. If you are a racist, own it....it is the first step in overcoming your disease.

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

    Another reason I'd never live in Boston! What a bunch of inbred, NYC wannabees!!

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

      how ironic....internet badasses ridiculing other internet badasses.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LOL

    That's Boston and Boston's fans for ya. Is anyone surprised??

    April 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rob

    It's too bad hockey is only covered when someone is almost killed on the ice or something racist comes up. Hockey is a great sport. Too bad a handful of idiots gave the media an excuse to talk about racism.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • QB

      Agreed. People just look for an excuse to slam such a great sport any chance they get. Furthermore, the tweets don't mean there's racism in Boston. It means there's racism in America. Anyone who believes there wouldn't have been a similar response had this happened in NY, Philly, Pitt, Buffalo, Carolina (oh wait, the south has no history of racism, it's just Boston) is just kidding them self.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    This is completely unacceptable and it's embarrassing to anyone who is a real hockey fan. However, they have no way of knowing if the banana incident was racially motivated. The banana could have been thrown as a gesture to make the player slip, as bananas are famous for doing. How would the fan possibly know that Simmonds was going to take that shot and bring a banana to the game for that purpose?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David M

    Boston hockey fans. What do you expect? I live north of Boston and believe me, they are a breed apart. Or should I say 'inbreed' apart?! I never liked hockey. I went to one game about 20 years ago. That was enough for me. Bunch of loud mouth, foul mouth drunks. National Hoodlum League.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leopold

      Oh yeah, and baseball fans are much better... Hot dog eating / beer drinking fatties, just like the guys they're cheering on.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ddd7936

    CNN is becoming as bad as People Magazine; gossip and b.s.....is this really important?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. QB

    As a black man, a Bostonian, and a Bruins fan, as soon as I saw the article about racist tweets regarding the goal I wasn't too surprised, but the first thing I thought was that it was from racist people in general who saw the highlight, not necessarily Bruins fans. I wonder how many you could definitively say were Boston Bruins fans because they said something like, "I live in Boston, I love the Bruins, and N-word this, N-Word that." If not then one is just assuming.

    And when one broad-brushes a city as big as Boston as racists by a few tweets then you're just as ignorants as the racists who broad-brush minorities based on a few negative stereotypes.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL

      Maybe, but Boston truly IS racist. I've experienced the segregation and non-mixing firsthand. I was pretty shocked that a place up North could be that way. I would never live there. Kudos to you for putting up with it.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • QB

      LOL, I'm going to assume you're a bit older than me and remembered what things were like a while back so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Although I'm not sure what exactly you think I'm "PUTTING UP WITH" as you put it. It's just my opinion, but I think America is a racist place in general and any experience I have here I think I would have in any other city.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MasterWooten

    Funny CNN, you should post how many folk on the left are calling it ironinc that a black player for the DC team beat Tim Thomas who last year refused to meet Obama NOT because he's black but because he doesn't agree with the president's policies. This doesn stop them from calling Thomas racist and the like.

    Cuts bothways which is another example of why this particular man as the nation's first black president ISN'T the cool uniting force that the country needs.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      No one is calling him racist for that. Plus, how does calling someone racist amount to calling someone by a racial slur?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Erik

    The best part about this is no matter what they said or did they still lost. Ward made the winning goal in the seventh game, thus allowing his team to go on in the playoffs. His whole city loves him and so do his teammates. So while he is swimming in glory and fame, these fans are sitting on their keyboards spewing hate. If they would have had class about it they would have given their team a good name, but instead all of the NHL and America/ Canada now view the team and city as a classless bigoted group of people. Just sad.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. j

    What I don't get is this. Do racists think that their targets are at a level beneath them? Therefore, are they saying the Boston Bruins are even more inferior for having lost?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • David M

      They are certainly inferior to the Washington Capitals!

      April 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David M

    N.H.L = National Hoodlum League.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MasterWooten

    "CNN is becoming as bad as People Magazine; gossip and b.s.....is this really important?"

    True and CNN supporters often have the gaul to chide Fox News. CNN is fast becoming Fox Left!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Geest

    Ahh Boston and its hometown fans. The world's largest collection of insufferable drama queens, racists, lowbrows and inbred toothless rejects. England was right to get rid of that lot.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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