Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals was born in Toronto to parents who migrated from Barbados. He used to hear racist taunts playing in youth hockey tournaments, but told the Washington Post this season that “I’ve [heard] nothing in the NHL.”
On Wednesday night, Ward scored the series-winning goal against the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 7.
The kind of racist language that Ward had avoided throughout his NHL career bubbled to the surface like sewage on social media.
Some of the reaction collected by Capitals Outsider after Ward’s game-winner (Strong Language Warning):
"Hey Joel Ward!! You [expletive] spear chucking monkey, why don’t you actually DO SOMETHING. You’re totally irrelevant"
"How the [expletive] did Joel ward get out of my plantation? #WheresMyCotton"
"Warning to Joel Ward. Your one of three black guys in Canada. I will find you…and I will kill you."
And so on. There was outrage across the hockey world about the language being used about Ward, and on Thursday morning Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis thanked those who called out the offending parties via his blog titled “Keyboard courage and ignorance”:
Shame on these folks who decided to take to their keyboards and show their ignorance and their racism and hate.
What these people have said and done is unforgivable. I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs. There should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering. Their messages should now stay glued into the algorithms to place a forever warning and a mark upon these people and their actions. They shouldn’t be able to escape their keystrokes.
We will as an organization support Joel Ward. He has been a great teammate and a great citizen. He is now the star of stars in our city for his heroics last night. He is a friend and a fantastic player — who delivered — as advertised for us and our fans in the playoffs.
Comments about Ward’s race were all over social media after Game 7.
[Capitals shed underachiever label by beating Bruins in a gritty Game 7]
The website Chripstory, which collects tweets on a given topic to create a story, close to 50 tweets that use a slur against African-Americans are featured. The site Black Sports Online collected even more of them. (Strong Language Warning for Both)
This is a small collection of tweets, and some may not even have been hockey fans; and almost none of them were directed to Ward’s feed. It’s the kind of thing you might see on any night on social media about black athletes — a sad commentary, no doubt — magnified by the circumstances of Game 7.
To that end, Burnsy of With Leather (Strong Language Warning)had this to say:
Seth Davis from Sports Illustrated thinks we should find out who these people are and get them fired from their jobs. Fine, let’s make them angrier. Other people think these d—kheads should be deleted from Twitter. While that seems reasonable, they’ll just get new accounts and amplify their hate.
Short of forming small tactical teams that travel the country and locate these people based on IP addresses so we can round them up and put them on rockets and fire them into the sun — which I’m totally down for, by the way — the best we can do is ignore them. Hopefully, Joel Ward is, because he already beat them all.
Of course, Ward’s race was also used for humor after he scored the game-winner: Countless fans and media made note that Tim Thomas, who opted not to attend a Stanley Cup celebration with President Obama in January at the White House due to personal politics, had been defeated by a black man who works in Washington.
We’re not trying to equivocate the two. One’s a lighthearted jab at Thomas’ politics, the other is outright racism. But in both cases, Joel Ward wasn’t just an undrafted player who endured for 14 years before becoming a Game 7 hero — he was the black hockey player that did so.