Is Evander Kane Right, Does Hockey Have a Problem with Racism?
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Evander Kane leveled a harsh charge at the sport of hockey and the National Hockey League when he told The Hockey News that much of the criticism he has received is race related.
Kane received plenty of criticism during the lockout when he posed with stacks of cash while standing on a Las Vegas balcony as he pantomimed making a call to boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.
The photo brought about significant criticism of Kane, and the high-scoring Winnipeg winger interpreted some of the remarks that came back at him as racism.
"I think a good portion of (criticism) is because I'm black and I'm not afraid to say so," Kane told The Hockey News in a story that is scheduled to appear in the publication March 4 (through TheSportingNews.com).
Kane, 21, seems to be confusing personal criticism with a racial attack. Posing with a stack of money is crass under any circumstances, but when it's a young athlete seemingly flaunting his riches while others suffer during an economic downturn, it's as if he has invited a firestorm of criticism.
The public forum of social media is similar to swimming in a blood-infused ocean in shark-infested waters under the best of circumstances. When you invite public criticism the way Kane did, you are going to get torn to pieces.
But while Kane's point may not reasonably apply to the circumstances that he put in front of the public, he raises an important question.
Does hockey have a problem with racism?
There are still relatively few African-Americans and African-Canadians playing the sport at the NHL level.
Calgary's Jarome Iginla is a superstar who will almost certainly end up in the Hall of Fame after he retires from the game. Wayne Simmonds is a solid player on the rise, who is a key part of the Philadelphia Flyers' game plan.
P.K. Subban is a talented defenseman for the Canadiens who alienates opposing players with his attitude but is capable of blasting his slap shot as few players can. Joel Ward is a savvy veteran with the Washington Capitals.
There are several other black players in hockey's minor and junior leagues. Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and an African-American, may be the top pick in the 2013 amateur draft.
Racism has reared its head on several occasions in recent years.
Those racial incidents have come from fans—usually in an anonymous setting—and those incidents are embarrassing to the sport.
When Simmonds skates in a preseason game and is taunted by a banana-throwing fan, it is ugly and unacceptable.
When Ward scored the series-winning goal in overtime of the seventh game for the Capitals against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, a boatload of virulent racist remarks were directed at Ward.
While there is nothing to suggest that any hockey official was anything but embarrassed over these incidents, that's not enough.
Hockey stepped to the forefront of social leadership in sports with the "You Can Play" public service announcements, in which star players reflected the attitude that an individual's sexuality would have nothing to do with a player's ability to compete on the ice.
At the very least, the NHL could come forth with a series of PSAs pointing out that racism cannot be tolerated at any level in the sport.
A failure to do so would be akin to the leadership placing its head deep in the sand and is not acceptable.
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