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Racism in Hockey

In: Social Issues

Submitted By odognine2
Words 3229
Pages 13
Ryerson University

Racism in Canadian Hockey

Neil McGregor - 500 459 843
SOC 507- Race and Ethnicity in Canadian Society
Professor Christopher Powell
April 13th, 2016

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction......................................................................................................3

Evidence of Racism in Hockey
Minor Hockey.......................................................................................3
Professional Hockey.............................................................................6

Impacts of Racism in Hockey............................................................................8

Influencing Factors...........................................................................................8

Corrective Action.............................................................................................10

Conclusion........................................................................................................12

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INTRODUCTION
Canada’s favourite past time hockey has and continues to endure racism throughout all levels of the sport. This paper will expose the institutional racism in Canadian hockey associations with an emphasis on black hockey players. Drawing credible news reports and personally experiences, I will provide evidence that institutional racism is deeply rooted within the fabric of the sport, which can be observed from the actions and behaviour of authoritative figures. Additionally, the essay will analyze the implications from racial discrimination in both minor and professional hockey. By doing so, valuable information will be discovered to understand the true underlying factors that are influence and permit racist behaviour to persist. Moreover, the key purpose of this paper will serve to highlight potential corrective action to address the issue and eliminate institutional racism in hockey.
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EVIDENCE OF RACISM IN HOCKEY
MINOR HOCKEY
Minor hockey in Canada is at an exciting and critical time in history as hockey is rapidly becoming more diverse. Unfortunately, correlated to the growing popularity of visible minorities, racially charged assaults are becoming a major problem. The forms of racism vary from egregious and observable abuse to subtle and passive abuse. To appreciate the both the tangible and intangible forms of abuse, this essay will draw from both news reports and personal experiences. The news reports will serve to highlight the visible forms of abuse, while the personal experiences will uncover the more discrete forms of abuse.
Sadly but not surprisingly, news reports stemming from racially charged incidents in minor hockey is extremely common each season. It is important to note the incidents reported have a common trend of discriminating black people; however each incident is unique as the victims vary from players, parents, coaches and referees. Additionally, incidents include physical and verbal abuse, or a mixture of the two. Thus being, to understand the scope of the problem, it is necessary to depict several articles of varying degrees of abuse and victims. “Nick Ngwafusi, 15, was the subject of a racial slur in a game against the Ottawa Valley Titans when another player called out to him and yelled the N-word at the young black teen. Tears started to flow in frustration as he skated off the ice” (CBC, 2011). Dissecting this event, there are two key observations that are significant to appreciate the extent of the problem. First, the aggressor in this situation is only 15 years old. At 15 years old, the aggressor felt it both necessary and acceptable to violently attack another player. Moreover, the 15 year old victim subjected to the attack was incredibly damaged emotionally from the event. Secondly, the verbiage used is so violent which highlights the significance of racism in minor hockey. The nature of the sport evokes intense and sporadic emotions which encourages the oppressor to express their truest emotions. As a result, one can conclude that racism is deeply rooted within that player’s beliefs, and which is not exclusive to this incident.

The next example of racism in minor hockey involves parent’s involvement in the problem. “Parents yelled racial slurs and insults, including "Go home, Mohammed," at a referee on the ice” (CBC, 2015). This is a particularly disturbing incident which speaks volumes to the root of the problem. It is explained that parents have a very passionate belief and concern attached to preserving the segregation of the sport. Even the diversity of referees is a sensitive area to the existing culture. Furthermore, this incident speaks volumes to the acceptance and magnitude of racist behaviour demonstrated even by parents. In other words, parents are so outraged by the inclusion of visible minorities in the game that they cannot contain their racist thoughts to themselves, but rather must vent their frustration in front of their children. With respect to my personal experience, throughout my playing career in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, racism always a topic of concern. Whenever I played a team that had a black hockey player, referees and coaches were instructed to address the issue, and inform players from restraining from using racial slurs. In one particular game when I was in high school, one of my black teammates was both physically and verbally assaulted during the game. Players on the opposing team were slashing and yelling racial insults throughout the game at my teammate. In that situation, my teammate told our coach who informed the referees, but nothing was done to punish the opposing team. The referees tried to resolve the situation by telling the opposing coach and team to refrain from using derogatory terms. For me, this was an eye opening experience because until then I did not play with a black teammate or witness firsthand the severity of the issue. Thus being, I could not truly relate or appreciate the distress black players encountered on a regular basis. More shockingly to me, I was upset at the repercussions of such violence. I assumed that all racist behaviour would be handled with much more serious penalties but I was sadly mistaken. From the experience, I began to recognize that black players were not only at risk of being abused, but also lacked the support from the league to prevent and stop the issue.
PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY Of the five major professional sporting leagues in North America, the NHL is highly regarded as one of the most respected due to the integrity of their players and coaches conduct. Furthermore, the NHL’s commitment to proactive initiatives such as partnering with Ross Initiative in Sports Equality (RISE), clearly communicates their dedication to social equality. “The National Hockey League chose to partner with RISE because we share in the organization's values promoting understanding, respect and equality," said Jessica Berman, vice president of special projects and corporate social responsibility for the NHL. "We understand that professional sports can provide a powerful vehicle for social change, and we are proud to provide our platform to help increase awareness in the areas of diversity, inclusion and the importance of treating all people with respect"(Rosen, 2015).
Despite the NHL’s commitment to diversity, racism continues to haunt the league with respect to external stakeholders such as broadcasters and fan engagement. To appreciate the context and scope of the issue, I will provide a detailed analysis of both media figures and fan discrimination from recent years.
Media figures, including the iconic Don Cherry for years have been exceptionally critical of black players. In particular, P.K Subban has received excessive criticism for his on and off ice behaviour. With regards to Subban, throughout his career he has been an outstanding member of society. He recently donated ten million dollars to a Montreal Hospital, and is consistently involved in community services yet the media is especially harsh to judge his on ice behaviour. Don Cherry in particular, consistently directs negative attention to Subban’s aggressive play and energetic celebrations. For example, following one of Subban’s heroic overtime goals, Cherry was not amused by the goal, but rather was irritated with his celebration commenting “Subban had better stop that stuff when he (goes to the Olympics)” (Ifpress, 2015). Although Cherry is notoriously outspoken, his exception to black players’ celebration seemingly always overshadows their success. In addition, well respected analyst Darren Pang also took exception to Subban’s behaviour. Following the same goal, Pang suggested Subban to look to Pietrangelo (white hockey player), as an example of someone who Subban should “maybe try to duplicate.””(Huffington Post, 2015). These two examples speak to the media’s acceptance of black hockey players’ success in the NHL. Regardless of Subban’s leadership and excellence on and off the ice, he is often bashed and advised to act more professional like other white athletes.
Unlike the media, the fans comments and actions are arguable more candid because there is not a governing body monitoring them. For that reason, analyzing forms of discrimination from the fans provides a very telling opinion of the racial discrimination rooted within hockey’s culture. One of the most recent displays of racism occurred after Joel Ward, a Canadian black hockey player, scored an overtime goal during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs to defeat the Boston Bruins. After the goal an onslaught of hundreds of Boston voiced their emotions as noted “Fans often send vulgar letters, make hateful comments via Twitter, and even send death threats to athletes as a result” (Goss, 2012). In addition to this example, there have been many reported incidents of fans throwing bananas at black hockey players including Ray Emery and Wayne Simmons. These appalling examples clearly demonstrate the racist sentiments that are embedded within the fabric of the hockey culture.

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IMPACTS OF RACISM IN HOCKEY
The implications of such racism seen throughout both minor and professional hockey have lasting impacts on the individual victims and the image and quality of the sport as a whole. Having said that, it is easy to observe the physical and mental damages done to the victims via their testimonies; however it is difficult and equally important to realize the indirect and future damages these incidents have caused moving forward. To gain a better understanding of these lasting effects on the diversity and inclusion of the sport, it is necessary to think how a young black player or parent would think about playing the sport. Inevitable from the publicly reported evidence of racism, many parents would be reluctant to the potentially subjecting their child to that abuse. Moreover, it would only be natural for children after hearing these reports through social media to be nervous or uncomfortable to register for hockey. Knowing that hockey is a predominantly played by white people and there is risk of mental and physical abuse due to their skin colour can be very intimidating for a young child.

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INFLUENCING FACTORS
Valuing the rights and freedoms of diverse hockey players, it needs to be a high priority of Hockey Canada to address the underlying issues at hand to instill more proactive initiatives. However, acknowledging that racism exists, and the understanding the lasting impressions of racism is not enough to information to implement a sustainable strategy. It is imperative to reflect and realize the institutional racism that is present, and all the underlying factors that allow for racist behaviour to persist.
To comprehend institutional racism in hockey, it is essential to analyze not just emotionally charged forms of racism on ice, but also the off ice strategies that deter the registration of diverse people. This form of exclusion includes the inaccessibility of hockey noted by the University of Calgary ``Playing hockey is expensive (fees and gear), time consuming for families, requires transportation and an accommodating work schedule, and in Alberta is conducted in English. While there is no ‘intent' to exclude non-English speaking, lower-income, shift-working, single-parent families from playing organized hockey, the system is designed by and for middle-class, professional white families.``(UofC, 2015). In other words, restricting the accessibility of playing hockey to only meet the needs of the white middle class is an aspect of institutional racism that is prevents diverse communities from playing.
In addition to the financial and accessibility obstacles of diverse families, there is also concern of the authoritative figures running the organizations. Minor hockey leagues are primarily organized and operated by volunteer coaches and parents, the same people who were described earlier engaging in racial behavior. This alludes to issue of issue of discrimination present during the recruitment and glass ceiling placed on black hockey players. Since the coaches and parents who are proven to take part in racial discrimination during games, certainly play an integral role in the recruitment, development and treatment of excelling black players. As a result, athletically gifted black individuals must consider their future in the sport, in comparison to much more accepting and accessible sports such as basketball.
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CORRECTIVE ACTION
To appropriately address the issue of institutional racism embedded within Canadian hockey there are two critical objectives that Hockey Canada must achieve. The two objectives include: ensure all rinks across Canada are safe for all members of the hockey community and hockey needs to accessible and affordable for all members of society. To achieve these objectives, Hockey Canada must implement three strategies: educate the hockey community at large, develop diverse inclusion programs and hire a governing body to discipline any and all forms of racism.
Educating the hockey community at large is a daunting task, but must be done for the safety of all players, parents, coaches and fans. To educate the hockey community, Hockey Canada must focus on the youth hockey organizations and the influencing figures in the media. By educating the youth, Hockey Canada kids at an early age will learn to distinguish what is acceptable behavior at hockey, home and in life. As well, this will serve as a valuable tool to prevent future racist behavior. With respect to educating influential figures in the media, Hockey Canada can prevent figures like Don Cherry from offending diverse players and teaching impressionable young hockey players from acquiring racist mentalities. To educate this group, Hockey Canada should be constantly reminded of their influence, the importance of the issue and understand the effects of their statements have done. Additionally, they should be required to take sensitivity training to teach them to refrain from racial discrimination and appreciate appropriate terms in today’s society.
To make hockey available to all members of society, not just the white middle class, Hockey Canada needs to implement diverse inclusive programs. The program must aim to make hockey feasible and accessible for lower income families. To make hockey more feasible the two major expenses associated with playing are registration fees and the cost of equipment. To make reduce regulation fees for lower income families, fundraising events at both minor and professional hockey should be coordinated regularly with the proceeds pooled together to support lower income families. To equip players, Hockey Canada can create charity programs that rent or pass down equipment from other players.
Finally to govern all levels of hockey, Hockey Canada should hire an independent governing body to oversee all minor hockey games. The hired governing body will attend all games and monitor the behavior of players, coaches and referees. The individual will wear a distinguishable uniform to represent to all that it is a safe environment, and there is a person at every rink that is approachable for anyone to voice their concern. People that break the outlined code of conduct of the league will be forced to leave the game immediately. From then, a decision will be made dependent on the severity of the incident to either suspend or ban the individual from attending another game. Assessing unforgiving punishments to people who to choose to break the code of conduct will set a tone for people attending games, and for future players joining hockey. As well, the governing body will be responsible for recording and measuring the existence of racism to track the responsiveness of Hockey Canada’s corrective actions. Hiring a governing body is the most important part of the corrective action plan. This will communicate to all members of the hockey community that racism will not be tolerated, and rinks will be a safe place for all.
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CONCLUSION
In conclusion, racism in hockey is a major issue that must be confronted. It has become a huge concern that is segregating the hockey community at all levels of the game. The effects of the abuse is causing painful and long lasting physical and mental harm to both our youth and to our idol hockey players which is unacceptable. Sadly for the game, the problem has been rooted within the fabric of the game as the media, coaches and parents are responsible for the damages. Moving forward, Hockey Canada must implement major change to make rinks safe and the game accessible to everyone through education, diversity programs and governance to ensure sustainable change. In doing so, Hockey Canada can cultivate the now homogenous sport into a diverse and inclusive game to be played and enjoyed by all, how it should be.

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REFERENCES
Allen, Kate. "Hockey Coach Faces Ban for Opposing Racial Slur | Toronto Star." Thestar.com. The Toronto Star, 03 Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/12/03/hockey_coach_faces_ban_for_opposing_racial_slur.html>.
"Cherry Rips Subban's Celly." The London Free Press. QMI Agency, 18 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.lfpress.com/2014/01/18/don-cherry-rips-canadiens-pk-subbans-goal-celebration>.
Fox, Luke. "Soul on Ice’ Director on Racism and Progress in Hockey." Sportsnet Canada. Sportsnet Canada, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. <http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/black-hockey-players-soul-on-ice-past-present-future-movie-subban-evander-kane-josh-ho-sang-kwame-damon-mason-documentary-herb-carnagie-will-oree/>.
Goss, Nicholas. "Game-Winner Sparks Racial Tweets." Bleacher Report. Tuner Broadcasting Inc, 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1161561-nhl-playoffs-2012-bruins-fans-unleash-racial-slurs-in-response-to-loss>.
"Hockey Calgary: Slurs And Racist Remarks A Growing Concern On Ice." The Huffington Post. HPMG News, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/24/slurs-racism-minor-hockey-calgary_n_4158260.html>.
Lang, Cara. "Evander Kane, P.K. Subban and the Abundance of Racism in the NHL." Arctic Ice Hockey. N.p., 06 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.arcticicehockey.com/2013/12/6/5179170/racism-nhl-evander-kane-pk-subban>.
Larkin, Matt. "How Documentary ‘Soul On Ice’ Redefines What It Means to Be Black in Hockey."The Hockey News. N.p., 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/how-documentary-soul-on-ice-redefines-what-it-means-to-be-black-in-hockey/>.
Meltzer, Bill. "Hockey Is Diversity." Hockey Is Diversity. N.p., 06 July 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/news-singleview/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=4847&cHash=354dab575becbccf598817e0121d26fc>.
"More Examples of Systemic Racism." More Examples of Systemic Racism. The University of Calgary, 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ucalgary.ca/cared/examplesofsystemicracism>.
News, CBC. "Racial Slurs Reported at Ottawa Hockey Game Prompt Investigations." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 08 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-cornwall-hockey-slurs-1.3354501>.
News, CBC. "Racist Slur Directed at Minor Hockey Player." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/racist-slur-directed-at-minor-hockey-player-1.1032649>.
Rosen, Dan. "NHL Partnering with RISE to Combat Racism." NHL.com. NHL Network, 30 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-partnering-with-rise-to-combat-racism/c-795127>.
Solinsky, Kolby. "Is Hockey a Racist Sport?" The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kolby-solinsky/hockey-racism-evander-kane_b_2682798.html>.

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