Willie O’Ree, Valmore James, Evander Kane, Devante Smith-Pelly, Wayne Simmonds and so many others have been on the end of racist taunts from players, and fans of hockey. 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 are the years in which NHL players had documented racist incidents in which they were the target.
Hockey has a racism problem that continues to plague the game at every level.
Add to that list the name of Jonathan Diaby, 24, who plays for the Jonquiere Marquis in Quebec. He was taunted, his father and his father’s girlfriend were taunted, and threatened during a recent game. He was sent to the penalty box and suffered the racist taunts of several fans. Shortly after the fans turned on Diaby’s father taunting him and shouting racial slurs.
The video below shows some of the taunts that were thrown at Diaby. When given a second penalty during the game Diaby chose to serve his time in the locker room to avoid further taunts, He also asked for an escort from the building due to fear of physical retaliation. A request that was denied. The league apologized for the actions of the fans and the treatment of Diaby later, but it seems too little, too late.
Almost 70 years ago, this exact same thing happened to Willie O’Ree, while playing in Quebec. 70 years. I’d like to say we’ve evolved as a nation – but I have my doubts. THIS is why Culchahworks does the work it does – because there’s still so much… https://t.co/iwxSOxpO7Y
— Culchahworks (@culchahworks) February 27, 2019
Racism in the game is not new, nor is it the only sport that has bigoted fans and players. That said there are several instances a year in which players suffer these types of taunts. These happen in youth hockey, female hockey and at every level of junior hockey and the pro leagues. I have witness too many to count in my years within the game and these are not a Canadian, nor an American problem but a problem with the culture of the game.
The NHL has made an effort in recent years marketing the #HockeyIsForEveryone and just recently invited the Black Girl Hockey Club to the NHL HQ to share their experiences and a tour of the HQ. They also, finally, inducted Willie O’Ree to the Hall of Fame. They also appointed a woman of color, VP of Diversity and Inclusion,Kim Davis to further their efforts in inclusion.
Those efforts are great first steps to making hockey accessible to all but there is work that needs to be done to bring hockey to the masses. However in a recent interview Soul on Ice director Kwame Mason spoke about playing hockey in DC and running into a couple of people of color that live near the rink that said that they didn’t know that they could go inside the rink.
In the youth hockey world I have witnessed this first-hand. A young woman on one of our teams that is a player of color was both taunted by players and spoken of in the stands. There were fans of the opposing team sitting next to me that felt comfortable enough in the stands to comment on her race with mostly white faces around. When called out they backed off, but it speaks to the tacit acceptance of racism.
There needs to be scholarships and outreach for players of color, ball hockey and other avenues for players that do not have access to ice. All of those would help but really there needs to be a culture shift in the game, at every level to view each other as humans and erase the hate.