Overlooked last week due to the released taped ramblings of the Los Angeles Clippers owner and its aftermath was the real-time racist bashing of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who scored the winning goal in the first game of his team’s playoff series against Boston.
Spoiler alert: Subban is Black.
The Bruins fans, who I wouldn’t venture too far off target by identifying as mostly Whites, went social media headhunting. They didn’t just cross the line but Evel Knievel-like jumped over it and crashed headlong into racist canyon.
“The tweets were ugly, profane, and if they didn’t directly reference the colour of Subban’s skin, they used the hashtag of the n-word as emphasis,” wrote Canadian-based Amanda Kelly of Global News. A Montreal-based company that monitors media found over 17,000 tweets with either Subban or the n-word used last Thursday night. One example had Subban’s face affixed onto a picture of feces.
Admirably, Boston team personnel swiftly reacted in support of the defenseman, and strongly called out these “so-called Bruins fans” that are so culturally conditioned that it helped show that we are as close to a post-racial society as the planet Uranus is to Earth.
It was, to these fans, not “that damn Canadien” but “that damn Black Canadien” who beat their beloved team last week. It was the “disheartening and disgusting” tweets that got more press time than the game itself.
Unlike most non-Black folk who’ll usually argue otherwise, I’ll continue to insist that sports has yet to reach color-blind status. Last week’s cyberspace bashing again proves that color-blindness remains in the eyes of the beholder, and the only thing last week’s tweeters beheld was that they could only see Subban’s game-winning heroics along racial lines and that his Black skin stirred their emotions in such hateful fashion.
Was it shocking? Not really.
“If you’re going to make bad comments, stick to hockey comments, not to stuff that crosses the line,” advised Gary Washburn in his coverage of the incident for the Boston Globe.
Isn’t it ironic that Subban’s brother is the Bruins’ top prospect, now playing for the parent’s club farm team? Isn’t it also ironic that one of the Bruins players, six-time NHL all-star Jarome Iginla, who signed with Boston in 2013, also is Black.
“Blacks are accepted as long as they flourish only for the home team,” admits Washburn, who also reminded readers last week that only a couple of years ago some Bruins fans again went n-word nuts in showing their displeasure after Washington’s Joel Ward scored the game winner that eliminated Boston from the playoffs. It seems like the only black such fans want to see on the ice is the puck.
“It seems that hockey brings out the worst in some,” believes Washburn.
I have followed hockey ever since my grade school days growing up in Detroit. I cheered my hometown Red Wings knowing full well that there wasn’t a Black player on the team. I often talked about covering hockey as a sportswriter, which I have done for over two decades now.
But to these racist fans, I shouldn’t be even looking at their White sport. It seems these tweeting hometown racists can’t yet fathom that Blacks do skate and shoot pucks as well as shoot baskets and catch footballs.
I say to these racist fans: Get over it.
Blacks today are playing NHL hockey, maybe not in the high percentages as in the NBA and NFL, but these nearly 30 hockey players of color aren’t going away anytime soon. Last year’s fourth overall pick in the league draft was Black.
To those who quickly argue for free speech, I say freedom always comes with a price. Maybe these fans have the right to say what they say, but does that right extend across race-language lines? These social media cowards who throw racist brickbats at Subban, or at anyone else they don’t like without using their real names, immediately should have their free speech licenses revoked.
It’s sad that the racists who doubled-down their dislike for what Subban did in helping his team defeat Boston last week solely because he was born Black overshadowed the “non-prejudiced hockey fans” who tweeted their displeasure over the loss, or even their dislike of what the Montreal defenseman did. Now even their criticism will be categorized as racist as well.
What will change this? Perhaps we should ask if it will ever change.
Finally, Washburn noted that hockey fans, especially the racist ones, need to stay behind the line and stick with hockey-related comments. It’s good advice only if you know what line to stay behind.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman @ spokesman-recorder.com.