Maple Leafs Brendan Shanahan: “We’re right with Black Lives Matter”


As the world continues to work for meaningful changes that will address systemic racism and racial injustice, Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan has listened.

He spoke with Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis. He spoke with Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri and read his editorial, which encouraged leaders to call for racism to “stop this cycle,” all in order to better understand the pain that is going through this moment in history.

“Something like this happens, as a white person, you feel embarrassed,” Shanahan said in a candid conversation with Tim and Sid on Friday. What I said to Masai is that I feel like I should just be quiet and slink in a corner and just not be heard about. His op-ed said exactly the opposite.

Through these conversations, through listening and learning, Shanahan began to recognize the role he and the Maple Leafs have in building a better future for hockey and the world.

“I think it was important for us as a hockey organization — which is a very white sport — to let the Raptors and let the Argos and TFC and our wonderful leaders take the lead,” Shanahan said. The only thing I wanted them to understand and make clear to all of our fans, Leafs fans and employees is where we are as the Toronto Maple Leafs and where I stand as an individual. »

As Shanahan describes it, Toronto’s call to action right now is to “educate ourselves” and learn. He acknowledges that there are also tensions in this statement. After all, he is a 51-year-old man, surely in those years he should have learned the necessary information about racial injustice.

But knowing and understanding are different things, and for Shanahan, understanding meant more thought.

“I looked back at my friends I grew up with and were black, or teammates who were black, I never saw them, you know, in the face of racism,” Shanahan said. “So I wrongly assumed that things had to go well. Looking back and thinking, I never remember going to them and saying, “well, you know, I’m sitting back and thinking things are OK for you, but why don’t you tell me how things are for you?

« … And I think this is an important time in which I am personally, and that we are all in —no matter where we feel we have been through our lives and through our actions.

“This is really the time for us to listen more and learn more. And it’s just not enough to say, “Well, you know, there’s no racism in my heart and my kids weren’t raised that way and no one does,” … I feel like it’s time for us to be more. I think it’s time to have more activism and that’s where we are right now.

As Shanahan noted, after listening carefully, a certain degree of action must follow. Statements are not enough. And while the Maple Leafs executive sees the importance of social media messages, they believe the responsibility to influence change should go beyond that—especially as time works and protests become less important in the headlines.

“ù [we feel we have] a responsibility, a responsibility that we are happy to have as white leaders in MLSE or Toronto, or in the sport of hockey, we have the ability to actually have a huge impact, I think, and not just step aside and ask and wait for black leaders to do it on their own,” Shanahan said.

“And as news cycles change — and they always do — I just think people need to know that I, Kyle Dubas, our Maple Leafs players, aren’t waiting for this new cycle to change, it was a changing moment for the whole world.”

The world has seen moments that should have changed it before, however. Shanahan knows that, too.

He remembers the Central Park Five, where five teenagers of color were wrongly convicted of raping a woman and spent six to 13 years in prison for a crime they did not commit; he remembers Rodney King, whose 1991 beatings by the Los Angeles Police Department became a symbol of American racial tensions and led to a week of deadly racial riots after the officers were acquitted; he remembers Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer; and of course, he remembers George Floyd, who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“We don’t know if these things didn’t happen before,” Shanahan said. “My children ask me, “Is this happening more often?” And I say, “I don’t know if it happens more often, but it’s certainly captured more often.” What we have all seen with this policeman, kneeling on a man’s neck for more than eight minutes, is so sickening for everyone. And it’s so painful for everyone, I think there’s an opportunity for change here.

« … As a white leader in a very white sport, in an organization where we recognize that we can be better and we can do more — and we’re going to do more —I just think this is really a time when we have to make real plans so it’s not something where we say “we’ve donated , we did a Tweet, and we moved on.

“We need to have immediate results, and most importantly we need long-term results because it’s something that has developed over 400 years. We are not going to fix it in a week, we are not going to fix it in a year, but we have to be part of the solution.

« … If they want us to lead, we will lead. If they want us to be led, they will lead us. But we’re right with Black Lives Matter.

When asked if the Leafs players have anything planned in terms of peaceful protests and, if they do, how the organization would support him, Shanahan says he expects something, but has not yet been communicated.

“e haven’t spoken to players specifically about what they’ve planned or if they have anything planned. I’m sure they do. And they will be supported by us.


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