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. CE

    So let me get this straight, "A number of people" used the "n-word" on twitter. This is news?

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

      Yep! You must've thought so too, since you commented and all.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joe

    Yet another reason to hate the Bruins.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bobbi

    I am a huge fan of Joel Ward even though he doesn't play for the Predators anymore, he went to my favorite Eastern Conference team– The Caps. Joel had an amazing playoff series last year for the Predators that kept us in the running through Round 2. To the point that the NHL even featured him in the "History Will Be Made" commercials (http://youtu.be/IYLJbM0x7I8). Knowing what I know about Joel Ward (granted it's limited), he is an easy-going, mild-mannered, and kind-hearted person who has dealt with this diversity (unfortunately) most of his career. Those tweets could never harm him or his career. I miss you, Joel!

    The fact that these tweets were made is absurd, but they aren't tweets from true fans but of Bruins fans who are jaded that couldn't even make it past the first round despite winning the cup last year.

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

    Boston is an ignorant city full of hate and racism.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      So because one group was racist, you blame a whole city? kettle, pot, black etc:

      April 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. QuietStormX (Carroll E. Gant, JR.)

    This is another example of whies and others of pail fleash who don't see the World or the United Stated becoming more of Color. And to show their Trure selves just hilites who can't live without "Hate". These are the people who commit mass murders often in the National News. in Hate Crimes. They are showing their small minds!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      Wow, you're one to claim others have small minds. You can't even spell properly. Your post was near unintelligible.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. russ

    well, we are talking about Hockey fans, aren't we?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mr Dalloway

    Why people why?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ian

    People are surprised by this? LOL. This is the internet. People mock and humiliate and denigrate EVERYTHING.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crymore

      true dat Ian.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. George from Virginia

    Wendell Oliver Scott was the first African American NASCAR driver and he won the Jacksonville 200 in 1964

    April 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. NavyAirVet

    Bad losers and drunks should stay off Twitter!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Fran

    I cannot believe, nor do I understand why CNN woulld make these disgusting and childish racist remarks about Washington Capital's hero, Ward, available on your website. Shame on you CNN for pretending to deliver the "news". This is news we can do without.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. joe jones

    you people need to get over yourselves. Racism is a part of life. It exists in every country and every culture. The U.S. is probably the least racist country on the planet–except for countries that have only one race and one ethnicty.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Excitizen

      Get an education – U.S. is an extremely racist country – from someone who has actually been outside of the U.S. border to see first hand.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      Hey excitizen, I've been outside the US border too. Racism may be overt in the US, but on the whole people here are much more accepting of diversity than anywhere else I've been, because we have so much more of it.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mr Dalloway

    We need to teach the children and some blacks that this is a very hateful vile word and should be looked down upon when heard.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hiruu

    ROFLOL...people are surprised?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. scott

    you are arguing about racism to a sport who's fans riot after winning the championship. "We won the stanley cup lets go destroy the neighbors car.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
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