The NHL players had the opportunity to put themselves on the right side of history on Wednesday, but they missed it.
Protests and outrage have marked the final days since an unarmed black Wisconsin man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back by police. In response, leagues like the NBA, WNBA, MLS and MLB have asked their players to decide not to play games, resulting in postponements and cancellations.
All of this as we approach four years since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down, then kneel down, for the US national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality. towards blacks.
MLS players like Jozy Altidore and Mark-Anthony Kaye called their league and its commissioner, Don Garber, asking for their support; A declaration. The league finally released one, saying it was “deeply saddened and horrified” by the “senseless” shooting.
Even an athlete like Josh Hader, the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher whose racist and homophobic tweets surfaced in 2018, has made the decision to be heard on this issue as a sign of growth. Not an absolution from his previous actions, but growth nonetheless. The Brewers’ game against the Cincinnati Reds would later be postponed.
There were even closing rumbles in tennis.
The NHL, instead, decided it would have a “cooling off moment” before the games it played on Wednesday night. While some players – Evander Kane and Troy Stecher come to mind – have commented on Blake’s situation, the league has decided to keep playing as other leagues shut down. Much to the chagrin of hockey fans and even the media.
Honestly, I am angry and embarrassed to be a part of the hockey community today. If I was supposed to play tonight, I wouldn’t play tonight. Stop doing the bare minimum. Take your ‘moment of reflection’ and learn from real leaders who lead ACTION in other sports
– Ailish Forfar (@ailishforfar) August 26, 2020
The NHL’s thinking “moments” were also embarrassing to say the least, and were quickly swept aside by critics. Some have spoken out against the fact that the moment of silence was only seconds in the eastern bubble before the Boston Bruins-Tampa Bay Lightning game.
As for the game in the western bubble? There were none.
The league was already absorbing the mess it had caused with the racial incidents of Akim Aliu and K’Andre Miller. The Hockey Diversity Alliance, an organization founded to bring together players of color, is not convinced the league has done enough to support its black players. Wednesday’s actions will only strengthen that narrative and support their point of view.
While the league will serve as a rod for criticism and disparagement, their players should not be immune. What all of the leagues mentioned above had in common was that their players felt empowered to take a stand. In the National Hockey League, only a handful of their white players have said anything in favor of their black teammates and cohorts after the death of George Floyd.
Neither of them wanted to sit down at one of Wednesday night’s games, or do more than a moment of reflection on the ice.
Players like Kane and Matt Dumba were left to make statements and express their displeasure on their own. Hockey, a sport in which its “team first” dynamic has been praised and commemorated, has for the most part left its minority players to demonstrate on their own with little support. Frankly, it’s cowardly of the NHL to do that.
Speaking personally, here. I don’t see these strikes in other sports as one-day events. Teams like the Toronto Raptors were discussing the possibility of withdrawing from games before the Milwaukee Bucks announced what they would do. If the NHL does eventually follow suit, instead of being seen as proactive and progressive, their decision will be greeted with moans and even more criticism.
For the NHL, it’s too little and already too late.